Children’s Immigration Story Project

RISE (Roslindale IS for Everyone) and the Roslindale Community Fund are sponsoring lending libraries of the following six books for use with children and families at the Roslindale Library, ABCD HeadStart, Casserly House, Sumner School, and other family-oriented centers in the neighborhood. Click here to sponsor a book or a set of books, or buy one for your family!

The books discuss issues of immigration and separation from a child’s point of view. They are intended as a tool to help children and families begin to understand and discuss some of the complicated issues and feelings that can be part of the immigrant experience.

Often it is easier for children (and adults!) to talk about these issues through characters in a book, rather than through their own personal experience. It can be overwhelming to discuss scary personal immigration experiences, especially if immigration related worries and stress are a part of current family life. These books provide the opportunity for children and families to relate to the challenges faced by the characters in the book. If they feel ready to connect these stories to their own lives, it can be a powerful experience to know that children and families all over the world have had experiences similar to your own. But it is also helpful to just empathize with what is happening to the characters, and to be reminded of hope and positive outcomes.

Below is a little bit about each book and some questions to consider when reading it with children and families. We encourage you to incorporate these books into discussions, activities and art projects. They can help children ask questions and express feelings.

Contact RISE members Rachel Lerner, Larry Bayer, or Jaime Pullen for more information on this project, to donate or if you want to volunteer. Email us at roslindalerise@gmail.com. Click here to sponsor a book or a set of books, or buy one for your family!

Lost and Found Cat
by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes, Illustrations by Sue Cornelison

The true story of a family that escaped from war torn Iraq and brought their pet cat with them! The cat made it all the way to Greece, and then got lost. The family was eventually resettled in Norway. Volunteers who help refugees found the lost cat in Greece and launched an international social media campaign to find his owners. They persevered, and eventually succeeded! The book has pictures of the real family being united with the real cat!

Discussion Points: This book invites discussion about scary journeys to unknown places, kindness and helping strangers, and what you most miss from your home country.

Stepping Stones
by Magriet Ruurs, Artwork by Nizar Ali Badr

This book is in English and Arabic, illustrated with evocative stone collages. It is about a Syrian family whose life is changed by war. They live in fear, but make the decision to leave in search of hope and peace.

Discussion Points: This book invites discussion of how we can help people who are frightened or in danger. It also brings up the themes of hope and perseverance. The family walks and walks and is so weary, but is eventually greeted by new neighbors who want to help them start a new life.

Mama’s Nightingale
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrations by Leslie Staub

This book is about a Haitian family living in America. The mother is arrested while working in a restaurant and is sent to a detention center. The story tells about Saya, the little girl who misses her mother, how the family copes with separation and staying in touch, and how the father tries to help Saya remain hopeful. The father writes many letters begging for the mother’s release. But it is Saya’s letter to the local newspaper that makes the difference. The story ends with reunification.

Discussion Points:This book discusses courts, judges, and not having the right papers – issues that many families are currently confronting. It talks about how families cope with separation and ways of staying connected. It also talks about being patient with the advocacy process. People are trying to help, but waiting is so hard. Uncertainty is hard too. Fortunately, the book shows how powerful children’s words and experiences can be. It invites discussion about who you miss, how families stay in touch with far away family members, and what children might like to tell a judge or a newspaper about their family’s experience.

The Journey
by Francesca Sanna

This book focuses on a family fleeing an unspecified war torn country. They travel in cars, boats and on trains and are sometimes forced to hide.

Discussion Points: This book evokes empathy with how scary it is when war breaks out, how sad it is to leave everything behind, how much hope and our family connections can keep us going, and how we can help welcome people who are new to our country.

I’m New Here
by Anne Sibley O’Brien

This book is about immigrant children starting school in the United States. The children are from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia. It is always hard to be the new kid at school. But these children also confront a strange new language and culture. Initially the children are sad, confused and alone. But they try to make sense of the new world around them, and they begin to succeed!

Discussion Points: This book invites empathy for all newcomers. Imagine how we would feel if we had to go to a new school in Korea? Do you remember being new? What helped you feel welcome? Who is new in your class? Your neighborhood? What can you do to invite them to play, teach them about new things, and make them feel welcome?

We Came to America
by Faith Ringold

This book colorfully and joyfully illustrates a poem about all the types of people who came to America, and the varied circumstances of our arrivals (with a shout out to Native Americans for being here before the others came.) It also celebrates the cultural contributions of immigrant groups to American culture.

Discussion Points:This book is a great way to talk about respecting differences, celebrating our varied heritages, and discussing the emotional and cultural process of how immigrants become Americans. It also talks about the emotional context for arrivals. Why were families leaving their countries? Why did families chose to come to the United States? What kind of food, dance, arts and attitudes did your family bring with them?

Contact RISE members Rachel Lerner, Larry Bayer, or Jaime Pullen for more information on this project, to donate or if you want to volunteer. Email us at roslindalerise@gmail.com.

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