Humanizing the Immigrant Experience

As some of you know, Charles (HFP librarian) and I have been seeking books for our classroom that share the stories of immigrant families and of people who are homeless.

I have begun talking with our children about the value of our safe and loving homes. In doing so, we can set ourselves in a broader context as we consider some people that don’t have the same  luxuries as we do. Some families may not have food to eat, a comfortable place to sleep or warm home to play in. Given that many in our country are currently confused and proclaiming racist/anti-Muslim/anti-refugee/anti-immigrant sentiments, it feels that much more important to teach compassion.  It seems pressing to put faces and actual experiences to the word “immigrant” so we can not dismiss, ignore or foolishly regard all as a threat.  It is a reminder of the imperative to teach that all humans are connected and all people are valuable.

I’m grateful for the talented children’s authors and artists who are sharing  important accounts of precious people who have endured hardship and challenge, as they have left their own homes to come to the United States.

Three of my current favorites are:

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Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago
In this moving and timely story, a young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel north toward the US Border.

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Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat
A child of Haitian immigrants uses the power of words to reunite with her imprisoned mother.

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I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien
In this picture book for elementary children, three recent immigrant children from Korea, Guatemala, and Somalia adapt to their new country while finding a way to retain their unique cultures.

As I have been looking for books, I learned about a website with a huge array of high quality children’s books that illustrate a wide range of under-represented and marginalized experiences. I can think of no better way to combat xenophobia than to learn about, empathize with, and celebrate a host of experiences via stories. 

Please check out this website, I’m Your Neighbor Books, and share it with others.


For adults, I’m sharing two more resources that help give voice to the experience of immigrants.

Heart-wrenching poem for adults:

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Home” by Warsan Shire – SeekersHub Blog
No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well your neighbors running faster than you…

Sharing Oregon immigrant students’ stories.

A powerful example of putting faces and facts to a handful of impressive young people: www.wweek.com/2015/12/02/pdx-to-trump-drop-dead/

Here’s to sharing these humanizing stories, to broadening minds and softening hearts.

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