As parents it’s our job to equip the next generation with the knowledge and tools they need to be better, smarter, more compassionate people, and we firmly believe that literature plays a major part in that. Kids love to be read to, and many even enjoy reading themselves, so children’s books are often a wonderful way to help children learn about new and complicated topics, like immigration and Latinx heritage.
When we were children ourselves, we didn’t really know what immigration was at all, despite the fact that many of us come from families who immigrated to America. We were all just here—all of our families striving for something that was unavailable to us in our countries of origin. Now, we want our own children who are so far removed from many of our own immigration stories, to understand the immigrant experience in America, so they can not only understand a part of their own families’ histories, but also so that they can be understanding of others. So here, we’re sharing 11 of our favorite children’s books about immigration, from both Latinx authors, and authors from other countries and ethnic backgrounds.
A Kids Book About Immigration by MJ Calderon
A Kids Book About Immigration is a new book from the “A Kids Book About Series,” which is intended to educate and empower children in an approachable and engaging way. More a reference book than picture book, it’s written by Latinx author MJ Calderon and is geared toward children between the ages of five and nine.
A Kids Book About Immigration by MJ Calderon, $20, available at akidsco.com
Areli is a Dreamer by Areli Morales
This gorgeous picture book by Areli Morales tells the author’s powerful and touching story about moving to America from Mexico when she was in kindergarten as undocumented. Areli shares the pain of leaving her homeland and her abuela to start a new life in New York with her parents and brother. She talks about realizing she was undocumented and what that meant and also the difficulty of assimilating while eventually accepting that NYC was now home.
Areli is a Dreamer by Areli Morales, $18, available from Cafe Con Libros
Hannah is My Name by Belle Yang
Based on author Belle Yang’s immigration story, Hannah is My Name tells the story of a family who moves from Taiwan to San Francisco. It details how she was able to start life completely anew by taking on a new, Americanized name, going to a new school and learning to speak English. We absolutely love that although this story is about adopting American things, the book’s art has a strong Chinese influence.
Hannah is My Name by Belle Yang, $7, available from Amazon.com
Mango Moon by Diane de Anda
We honestly can’t even get over the power of the cover art for Mango Moon by Diane de Anda. We can’t say this one is an emotionally easy read, but the topic is so incredibly important. The author doesn’t just tell an immigration story, she tells the story of what it’s like when a family is separated by deportation and the devastating effects.
Mango Moon by Diane de Anda, $16, available from The Lit. Bar
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez is the beautiful story about a little girl who is often asked the question, “where are you from?,” but seldom has the right answer. In beautiful prose, her abuelo describes to her the island from which he hails, illustrating that the name of the place her family is from, is far less important than all of the beauty and wonder that it holds.
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez, $17, available at The Lit. Bar
Tani’s New Home by Tanitoluwa Adewumi and Courtney Dawson
Tani’s New Home by Tanitoluwa Adewumi and Courtney Dawson is the fascinating story of Tanitoluwa’s experience as a Nigerian refugee in America. After moving to New York City, he struggled to adjust to his new environment while living in a homeless shelter, but soon discovered the game of chess which provided him with an escape from his reality and eventually led his family to finding a home of their own.
Tani’s New Home by Tanitoluwa Adewumi and Courtney Dawson, $11, available from Amazon.com
Islandborn by Junot Diaz
From Dominican author Junot Díaz, Islandborn is a powerful children’s book about children from the same classroom who are essentially, from everywhere. But it focuses on a young girl named Lola who moved from the Dominican Republic with her family when she was an infant and has no recollection of her “first home.” To complete a school project, she sets about her neighborhood asking friends and family to share their memories. It’s an empowering story for children of color and the children of immigrants.
Islandborn by Junot Díaz, $18, available from mijabooks.com
Roqui’s Pandero Beat by Delia Ruiz
Roqui’s Pandero Beat is the perfect picture book to use to begin introducing the idea of immigration to very young children. Although it doesn’t touch on citizenship issues since it’s told from the Puerto Rican perspective, it does speak to the experience of being young and small and traveling to a far-off and unfamiliar land in order to achieve a dream or goal.
Roqui’s Pandero Beat by Delia Ruiz, $13, available from Amazon.com
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales is an impactful children’s book based on the author’s own experience as a young mother immigrating to the United States with her newborn son. Yuyi uses language that is accessible to young children to express the many emotions she felt throughout her experience and drive home the point that regardless of politics, America is a place for immigrants.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (available in both English and Spanish), $19, available at Cafe Con Libros
Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat
Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat is a thought-provoking tale of “immigration and separation.” It’s about a Haitian family living in America who is pulled apart when the mother is sent to a detention center for immigrants. To stay connected during an incredibly difficult time, she records herself telling Haitian folk tales and sends the cassette tapes to her daughter, who eventually has the opportunity to tell a story that may help reunite her family.
Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat, $17, available from Amazon.com
Coqui in the City by Nomar Perez
Coqui in the City by Nomar Perez is the sweet story of a young boy whose family moves to New York City from Puerto Rico. Initially confused by the new and unfamiliar place and sad that he had to leave his pet coqui behind, Miguel soon realizes that the New York and Puerto Rico have a lot more in common than he ever imagined. Finding the familiar in unexpected places, he soon settles into his new life in the city.
Coqui in the City by Nomar Perez, $18, Kew & Willow Books