Children’s Books to Understand the Refugee and Immigrant Experience

Immigrants and refugees are a much discussed topic in the news recently, and often the stories shared are of families fleeing war-torn or oppressive countries in search of a safer place to call home. How can we talk to children about such a traumatic but important topic? A trip to the library can be the perfect starting point for you and your family. Books can be a great way to begin a conversation with your child on these issues and can help to foster better understanding of refugees and immigrants. Below are a few wonderful titles to get you started.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Story by Margriet Ruurs; Artwork by Nizar Ali Badr

This lovely picture book was inspired by the artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, which is beautifully displayed throughout the narrative. Ruurs crafted a story which tells of Rama and her family in Syria and their attempt to escape the civil war and make their way to freedom by foot through Europe. You can read more about the book, the Syrian refugee crisis, and more here.  Orca Book Publishers is donating funds raised
from the sale of this book to Syrian refugees.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

For middle-grade readers who may want to explore this topic by reading independently, The Red Pencil is a good choice. Readers will follow young Amira, a Sudanese girl who must  escape her village after a militant attack. She struggles to adapt to life in the refugee camp but this story is ultimately one of hope. This would also be a great choice for a family book club thanks to the reading group guide provided by the publisher, which you can download for free here.


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The Journey by Francesca Sanna

Yet another beautifully illustrated picture book depicting the harrowing journey of one family attempting to escape on foot to another country. Amnesty International UK endorses The Journey and has free teaching resources on how to explore human rights with children using this book. You can access the downloadable pdf with discussion questions here.

Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland

Garland’s graphic novel tells the story of a young girl, Azzi, who is forced to flee an unnamed war-torn country with her family. This is a heartfelt tale with a decidedly optimistic tone as readers see her try to adjust to her new home in a new country. Azzi’s father brings some beans from their homeland and his daughter plants them in her new school’s garden, making for a touching homage to her family’s new future.

Chee-Kee A Panda in Bearland by Sujean Rim

The Loo family, a family of panda bears, have traveled very far to start a new life in a new land called Bearland. Once they arrive little Chee-Kee notices that he doesn’t look like any of the other bears or talk like them. He struggles with fitting in until one day his uniqueness saves the day. This sweet picture book is based on Rim’s family’s experience immigrating from South Korea to the United States and makes for a great introduction to the immigrant experience.


For more great resources and book recommendations check out I’m Your Neighbor, Read Brightly, and What We Do All Day.

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