8 Books to Introduce Immigration To Young Children, Building Empathy Along the Way

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

A wordless picture book following a man who leaves his home to venture to a foreign land, where everything is new and different. He struggles to understand and be understood. Slowly, with patience, luck, and a lot of effort, he acclimates and feel happy again. Anyone who has ever felt uncertain in new circumstances will identify, while others will learn to empathize.

This is the type of book that you'll keep looking at long after your child has fallen asleep. It's also quite long, which allows the story to unfold gradually and promotes elongated focus! A treasure. Appropriates for ages 5+.


In English, Of Course by Josephine Nobisso; Illustrated by Dasha Ziborova

Josephine tries hard to tell her story in the new language she's learning. The cultural miscommunications are engaging and make for interesting conversations with your little one. Set in the 1950s Bronx, adults will notice famous immigrants' stories integrated into the background. The way the story unravels will entertain children, while boosting their empathy. Grandparents may especially like reading this story since it takes places in the 1950s.


Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland

Azzi's plight leaving her war-torn country and starting over in a new place will touch your heart and build children's empathy.

Azzi struggles and overcomes challenges at school, but friendship helps her through. It's not too graphic or explicit for young audiences, so it's an effective way to introduce a complex topic. Different children will pick up on different details, and you can guide the conversation based on what piques their interests. 



Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say

Multi-generational story of both immigration and emigration. A Japanese man who immigrates to America, he loves both his old and new homes. Will promote empathy and practice in perspective taking. Also helpful for helping children adjust to changing environments and being flexible. 




A Day's Work by Eve Bunting

Featuring a little boy who helps his grandfather, this story teaches the value of honesty, hard work, and giving second chances. I found the story line refreshing and unexpected. This story is full of interesting conversation topics - just see what your little one is drawn to!



We Came to America by Faith Ringgold

Simple language and pictures convey the reality that America was built by immigrants, who were already here or came by various methods and for different reasons.

We are rich in diversity, with each of us bringing and offering riches, in art, culture, music, food and perspective.  Good choice for boosting acceptance. There are some good vocabulary words that can spark questions and quality conversations.



Amelia's Road by Linda Jacobs Altman; Illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez

Amelia is a kid like any other but faces frustrations and disappointment in her migrant life on the road. While the story acknowledges her challenging reality, it features her problem solving and ingenuity in finding her own happiness in the world she lives in. The story is specific and tangible in a way that children can grasp.




A Movie in My Pillow by Jorge Argueta; Illustrated by Elizabeth Gomez

A book of bilingual poems that laud Jorgito's urban San Francisco life with his loving father and his memories of his old home in rural El Salvador. The differences and similarities will spark a child's imagination and build empathy. Dreamlike illustrations.