Reading about immigrants

Well, we’re back home and back to school, all in one fell swoop. Thankfully we’re over the worst of the jet lag by now. For awhile the girls were waking around 3 AM and then having a hard time getting back to sleep, which meant they were all practically comatose by 6PM. I kept having to coax them to stay upright just a little longer in the evening so that they could get back to Idaho time.

Josh and Ben are doing well in public school so far, though I continue to have pangs feeling like (in allowing them their wish) I have deserted some of my responsibility to them. Funny how something that seems so normal to the vast majority of the world can feel so foreign to me. But I think they are doing OK, and of course it is God who is in charge of their life, not me. So I keep praying, keep talking to them about how things are going, and also now and then remind them that some of the questions I’m asking are not really a reflection on them, but simply me getting used to this new thing.

immigrantsJumping into school straight from 2 weeks in Ethiopia gave me an idea for a unit study with Emily, Julianna, and Zeytuna, my three homeschoolers this year. So many Ethiopians were happy our girls had come to Ethiopia to visit, but multiple times the girls were told to stay in America to live, as Ethiopians see America as the land of opportunity. Then of course we came home to read about all the refugees from Syria, and the terrible ways in which they are struggling to provide life and safety for their families.  Many of them also are longing to come to America.

Always in the past America has been seen as a place of refuge, a land that welcomes people who are struggling. I hope this will continue to be true in the future. I decided I really wanted our kids to learn a little more about the immigrant experience, and did an amazon hunt for some books that we can read together.  Most of them talk about the immigrant experience from the point of view of children and teens.

Four of the books tell the story of people who came to America via Ellis Island.  Children of the Dust Bowl is the story of kids who moved to California during the Dust Bowl and how they dealt with the discrimination they faced in that move. A Long Walk to Water is the true story of one of the lost boys of Sudan. Esperanza Rising is fiction and tells the story of a girl who moves from Mexico to the United States. Inside Out and Back Again is the true story of a child who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and it is written entirely in poems.

My plan is to begin with that last book, and to do a fair bit of the reading at lunch time to the girls while they eat.  I am hoping that our fresh experience in another country might make these immigrant stories more meaningful to our kids, and might give them a deeper compassion toward people who struggle to find a place in this world.



  1. Thanks for the book recommendations. I homeschool our 3rd grader, and I am always trying to work in interesting books, especially about culture, but I hadn’t thought about books about refugees.

  2. When Jesse Came Across the Sea is a favorite of mine because my love of crochet

  3. We love Molly’s Pilgrim and A Hundred Dresses. Great topic. Thanks.

  4. I loved Inside Out and Back Again! We read it for my book club last year. Love!

  5. I loved Inside Out and Back Again. I teach ESL and my students love the struggles she had with English. It started some great conversations.

  6. Those sound like some interesting books, so thanks. I finally got to visit NY a few years ago, even if only for one day, so we crammed a LOT into those few hours. I found Ellis Island much more captivating than I thought it would be, reading the short biographies of various immigrants and stories of what the hopeful people in general went through posted all over the place. We finally had to leave, but I could easily go back and spend a whole day in just that one place. Hopefully all those comments to them to stay here will help with the “I don’t need you”-itis that hits your family some times.

  7. The Good Braider is also an excellent read, esp for your older girls. Story of Sudanese refugee adjusting to life in NE USA.