Foster empathy picture books about immigration for the classroom.

Fostering Empathy: Must-Read Picture Books about Immigration for the Classroom

Dive in to discover picture books about immigration that are powerful tools for opening young minds to courage, resilience and determination. In today’s diverse and interconnected world, it’s more important than ever to teach our students about empathy, understanding, and the complexities of life experiences different from their own. Each children’s book about immigration provides insight and understanding of different cultures and experiences and creates meaningful conversations.

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Why Read Picture Books about Immigration?

Children’s books about immigration are a powerful way of teaching your students about our diverse world. Vibrant illustrations and engaging narratives introduce students to the complex issues surrounding immigration in a gentle and empathetic manner.

Immigration is a complex issue with implications far beyond moving from one country to another. Teaching this in the classroom encourages understanding, empathy, and respect for others.

Picture books about immigration also provide students with an understanding and appreciation of the challenges of immigration, an emotionally, physically and mentally challenging experience.

Your students can connect to the stories they hear and their own lives and experiences. Through conversations, your students can better understand immigration while developing empathy, compassion and respect for those leaving their homes searching for a better life elsewhere.

A group of people holding hands together on a gray background.

Children’s Books about Immigration for the Classroom

Picture books about immigration give children diverse perspectives and open their minds to different cultures, beliefs, and traditions.

Picture books allow abstract ideas related to immigration to be broken down into digestible information.

Reading stories by authors from other countries or cultures exposes your students to different points of view, broadening their horizons beyond what’s familiar. 

The immigration picture books in this post focus on people leaving their homes, arriving in new countries and their hopes and fears. Many of the books share a message about accepting others.

Character Traits in Children's Books about Immigration

Bravery: Showcasing the courage it requires to venture into the unknown.

Resilience: Highlighting the ability to adapt and thrive amidst challenges.

Empathy: Demonstrating an understanding of others’ experiences and feelings.

Contrasting characters, those who react positively and negatively to immigration, are crucial in fostering critical thinking skills. These contrasts allow students to evaluate differing attitudes and the resulting consequences.

A boy standing on a dirt road with a suitcase.

Navigating Sensitive Issues Surrounding Immigration

Teaching immigration can pose challenges, particularly when discussing sensitive issues. However, approaching these conversations with care and empathy can make a significant difference.

Questions to Pair with Picture Books about Immigration

  • Why do you think the characters chose to leave their home?
  • How did the characters feel about their new home?
  • What challenges did the characters face in their new environment?
  • What similarities and differences can you find between the characters’ old and new homes?
  • How did the characters adapt to their new environment?
  • What is the significance of the story’s title?
  • How do the pictures enhance the story?
  • What would you do if you were in the character’s shoes?
  • How does this story make you feel and why?
  • What would you ask the characters if you could talk to them?
  • How does this story change your perspective on immigration?
  • Can you think of real-life situations similar to the story?
  • How can you relate the story to your own life experiences?

Picture Books about Immigration

These immigration picture books are just a handful of the many insightful stories out there, each with the potential to spark curiosity, expand perspectives, and foster understanding.

Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona

In the Dominican Republic, Anita watches aeroplanes, called ‘dragons,’ fly above her home. One day, she learns she must ride one of these dragons to start a new life in a faraway land.

Anita and the Dragons fosters critical thinking about courage, self-reflection, resilience, adapting to change, and navigating challenging situations like immigration. 

Anya's Secret Society by Yevgenia Nayberg

Anya is left-handed but grows up in a society where right-handedness is the norm. She imagines a secret society of famous left-handed artists inspiring her. After moving to America, Anya finds that being different is acceptable and beautiful.

Anya’s Secret Society inspires discussions on individuality, self-expression, acceptance, embracing differences and courage.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The man leaves his family and ventures to an unknown city with unfamiliar customs, languages, and creatures. When he attempts to make the city his new home, he encounters kind strangers, each with their own immigration story, who help him adjust to his new environment. 

The Arrival, a wordless book, explores hope, empathy, acceptance, perseverance, and the search for belonging.

Binny's Diwali by Thrity Umrigar

Binny celebrates the festival of lights in her new American home. Despite her parents’ struggles to adapt and provide the traditional Diwali experience, Binny finds ways to make the festival special, connecting with family, friends, and her cultural roots.

Binny’s Diwali explores the importance of staying connected to our roots while opening up to new experiences and cultures.

Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison

Bird migrates from Alfie’s English garden to Africa. As Bird returns to England, he stops at his friend Leila’s house for water. He continues his journey home when she is not there and discovers Leila has moved next door to Alfie.

Boundless Sky sparks discussions about immigration, migration, and making connections. It teaches children the importance of empathy, compassion, and reaching out to others who may be different from us.

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña

Carmela finds a dandelion growing through the pavement. She imagines all the wishes she could make to help her family. When she drops and breaks the dandelion, her brother takes an upset Carmela to a field full of dandelions.

Carmela Full of Wishes promotes discussions on the importance of family, imagination, the immigrant experience, and the power of wishes.

The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman

Join Hassan as he navigates the complexities of starting a new life in England after fleeing war in Somalia. From feeling lonely and out of place to gradually finding a sense of belonging. 

Hassan’s journey is filled with challenges and triumphs, and highlights adaptability, endurance, and finding a sense of home in unfamiliar places.

The Day Saida Arrived by Susana Gómez Redondo

When Saida, a new girl from Morocco, arrives in class, her silence is misunderstood for a loss of words. As her classmates learn about Saida’s native language, Arabic, they embark on a cultural journey.

The Day Saida Arrived explores adjusting to new environments, communication and language exchange, open-mindedness in embracing different cultures, empathy and respect in fostering inclusivity.

The Day War Came by Nicola Davies

This is the first of two children’s books about immigration by Nicola Davies. A resilient girl navigates a world torn apart by conflict. After being rejected from a school, she finds hope in the empathetic gesture of a young boy – offering her a chair, a place to learn and belong. 

The Day War Came illustrates the harsh realities faced by children impacted by war, highlighting the struggles of immigration, perseverance and courage from resilience.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A father and son navigate the meeting of two distinct cultures. Inspired by the author’s childhood in Minneapolis, the reader sees the challenges and triumphs of adapting to life in a new country.

The book explores the immigrant experience, resilience in unfamiliar circumstances, the power of family bonds and adaptability in the face of change and unfamiliarity.