Books for Teaching About Immigration
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
Here are a few of many books I use to teach about immigration. This is a starting point, not an all-inclusive list.
Coming to America: The Story of Immigration by Betsy Maestro
A succinct history of U.S. immigration for students of all levels that captures the joy and anxiety of the successive waves of immigrants looking for a better life in beautiful watercolor illustrations.
Classroom Tip: Begin unit with this read-aloud picture book. It goes back to Native Americans crossing land bridge. Also includes brief explanation about slavery and introduces the International Luncheon, a culminating activity for unit.
The Copper Lady by Alice Rose and Leslie W. Bowman
This tale is set in 1880s France as a young boy visits where the Statue of Liberty is being built and decides to stow away. Andre decides to stow away on the ship that will bring it to America.
Classroom Tip: Fictionalized account of making and transporting the Statue of Liberty to the United States. Some 2nd graders can read it to themselves.
Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story by Eve Bunting and Ben Stahl
A young girl journeys from Ireland to America with her two younger brothers becoming the first immigrant into Ellis Island.
Classroom Tip: I use this picture book once students have an understanding of immigration and Ellis Island. This is a read-aloud book which can be read over several days.
How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting and Beth Peck
Modern day families face hardships coming to America.
Classroom Tip: Good for teaching about contemporary immigration.
How My Family Lives in America by Susan Kuklin
A glimpse at how three families impart a sense of ethnic identity to their children.
Classroom Tip: Nice photographs. Three different stories of recent immigrant children and their families.
I Hate English! by Ellen Levine and Steve Bjorkman
Mei Mei, a bright and articulate immigrant from Hong Kong, overcomes her difficulty adjusting to the new language and culture at school in New York City.
Classroom Tip: Cute pictures and story about an immigrant girl who resists learning English and how her teacher helps.
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord
Set in 1947, Chinese-American Shirley Temple Wong becomes a part of her new American surroundings.
Classroom Tip: Great chapter book for reading aloud. Reading level is above grade 2.
I Was Dreaming to Come to America: Memories from the Ellis Island Oral History Project by Veronica Lawlor
In 15 excerpts, young immigrants from various ethnic backgrounds recount their reasons for coming to America and describe their feelings about leaving their country.
Classroom Tip: One of my favorites. Short vignettes of one paragraph each told by immigrants themselves as they remember their Ellis Island experiences.
The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
A Jewish immigrant family passes on their story from their Russian homeland through their family’s clothing.
Classroom Tip: The quilt, a family treasure, is given from one generation to another. Shows the importance of family and keepsakes.
Liberty! by Allan Drummond
A lively story of the 1886 dedication of the Statue of Liberty.
Classroom Tip: Great pictures!
Lily and Miss Liberty by Carla Stevens and Deborah Kogan Ray
Lily Lafferty eagerly prepares for Miss Liberty to come to America.
Classroom Tip: I have multiple copies of this leveled reader as part of my Scholastic Guided Reading program. I use it with a literature circle of more advanced readers. Excellent book for discussing tenement life. There are directions in back of book for making Miss Liberty paper crowns. This chapter book could be a read-aloud.
The Long Way to a New Land by Joan Sandin
In 1868 a family leaves Sweden to make a better life.
Classroom Tip: A Swedish family’s story. One of a few immigration books that students can read independently.
The Story of the Statue of Liberty by Betsey Maestro and Guilio Maestro
An outstanding picture book on the Statue of Liberty.
Classroom Tip: Another terrific book. You’ll want to read several about the symbol of freedom.
Watch the Stars Come Out by Riki Levinson and Diane Goode
Grandma tells her granddaughter of her own Mama's voyage "on a big boat to America."
Classroom Tip: Try to locate the Reading Rainbow video. LaVar Burton visits the Statue of Liberty under renovation.
We Are Americans: Scholastic History of Immigration by Dorothy Hoobler and Thomas Hoobler
A comprehensive guide to immigration.
Classroom Tip: For teachers but not for 2nd graders.
When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest and Patrick James Lynch
Thirteen-year-old Jessie journeys from a poor village in Eastern Europe to New York City at the turn of the century.
Classroom Tip: Similar to Annie Moore’s story. Good to compare/contrast the two stories.