by Mia Ariela Allen
Mia is founder and Director of Professional Learning for Denver-based 4Ed Consulting. Mia currently is working with school districts nationally and internationally to develop language-rich learning environments. Mia is also a professional development facilitator and content developer for English Learner Portal.
As English Learner Portal prepares to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 25th, Mia shares her thoughts on supporting our students with literature. Hear the other English Learner Portal team members share their favorite multicultural children’s books by visiting https://englishlearnerportal.teachable.com.
Reading the world always precedes reading the word, and reading the word implies continually reading the world, Freire & Macedo (1987). Literacy: Reading the word and the world.
Even if your students have not been exposed to all of the recent news stories about or even photos of refugees, they may have heard about the crisis impacting young children and families around the world. Many of our nation’s refugee families, are resettling in communities across the United States.
When we are talking to our students about the global refugee crisis, it is very important to reinforce your own student’s safety. The journey that many of our newcomers have had to take was incredibly dangerous. As you consider the students in your class, you will want to first consider these journeys and how to relate the stories about refugees to their experiences. As our students are able to begin to relate to these journeys to their own sense of safety, it will be important to first help students create their understanding of who a refugee is, where refugees may come from, and what newly arrived refugees might need to feel safe and welcomed in their new communities.
Children’s literature is an excellent way to support difficult discussions and to foster empathy and understanding about the refugee crisis. These children’s books focus on two central and common themes; the refugee journey to safety and their experiences within the new community.
I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien
K-1st Grade Selection
This simple story is told through the eyes of three newcomer children; Jin from Korea, Fatima from Somalia, and Maria from Guatemala. All three children share the struggles of feeling safe, welcome and comfortable in their new American schools. Each student shares the challenge of communicating in English both in the classroom and on the playground. This simple and approachable story helps facilitate wonderful classroom discussion on community, collaboration, and caring for one another.
The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman & Karin Littlewood
1st-2nd Grade Selection
Hassan, a 1st grade student from Somalia talks about feeling homesick in his new community. Hassan and his family have just recently arrived in the United States after fleeing war and spending time waiting in a refugee camp. Like many newly resettled refugees, Hassan misses speaking Somali, his home, his community and is struggling to communicate in his new language, English. Hassan is especially missing his cat, Musa, who he had to leave behind. When Hassan arrives in his new home, he believes he has left all of the colours of his world behind. This incredibly vivid story helps our students feel empathy and gain a better understanding of some of the experiences a student their age may have overcome to begin a new life in a new community.
Stepping Stones- A Refugee Family’s Journey
3rd Grade and Beyond Selection
Our final selection is a beautiful story told by Margaret Ruurs and accompanied by the art of Nizar Ali Badr. As Ruurs highlights in the forward, the rock painting illustrations were created by Nazir, an artist in Syria. The l rock illustrations highlight the story, in both English and Arabic, a journey to safety. Much like the other stories, the newly resettled family is both hopeful and thankful for their new home and community.
Additional selections to consider for your classroom library
- Ada, A.(2002), I Love Saturdays and Domingos
- (1998). Mariante’s Story: Painted Words & Spoken Memories.
- Anzalüda, G. (1993).Friends from the Other Side
- Applegate, K. Home of the Brave.
- Beckwith, K. Playing War.
- Bunting, E. (1993) Going Home
- Burg, A. Serafina’s Promise.
- Cha, D. Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey to Freedom
- Choi, Y. (2001). The Name Jar
- Cohen, S. Mai Ya’ Long Journey.
- Danticat, E. Mama’s Nightingale: A story of immigration and separation.
- Deitz-Shea, P. The Whispering Cloth
- Del Rizzo, S. My Beautiful Birds
- DePrince, M. Taking Flight: From War Orphanto Star Ballerina.
- Duncan, D.
- Flores-Galbis, E. 90 Miles to Havana
- Garza, C.L. (1996). In My Family: En mi familia.
- Gillick, M. Once they had a country: Two Teenage Refugees in the Second World War
- Gutiérrez, R. K’naan.
- Hampton, M. The Cat of Kosovo
- Hoffman, M. The Color of Home
- Jimenez, F. (2001). Breaking Through
- Jimenez, F. (1997a) The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child
- Kuntz, D. Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey
- Lai, T. Inside Out and Back Again.
- Laure Bondoux, A. A Time of Miracles
- Lofthouse, L. Ziba Came on a Boat.
- Lord, M. A Song for Cambodia
- Martinez, V. (1996) Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida.
- Mead, A Girls of Kosovo
- McCarney, R. Where will I live.
- Mikaelsen, B. Red Midnight.
- Palacios, A. (1997). One City, One School, Many Foods.
- Park, F. My Freedom Trip.
- Paulsen, (1995). La tortelleria
- Pinkey, A. The Red Pencil.
- Ruurs, M. Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey (Arabic & English Edition)
- Sanna, F. The Journey.
- Simon, R. Oskar and the Eight Blessings.
- Smith Milway, K. The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World
- Soto, G. (1997). Buried Onions
- John, W. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town
- Tsang, N. (2003) Rice All Day
- Young, R.
- Wild, M. The Treasure Box.
- Wilkes, S. Out of Iraq: Refugees’ Stories in Words, Paintings and Music.
- Williams, M. Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
- Williams, K. Four Feet, Two Sandals.
- Woodruff, E. The Memory Coat.
Do you have a favorite multicultural children’s book you’d like to share in our online collection? Make a video of you sharing your favorite and reasons why and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to have you!
If you aren’t already part of our mailing list, please sign up HERE to receive freebies, announcements, and just to get to know us! Looking for new ideas and graduate credits? Visit our Online Professional Development School! Please visit the ELP website to meet the team and learn more about our services.