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Refugees & Immigration KS1

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Refugees and Immigration Booklist (younger ages)

We’ve put together a list of recommended texts for primary school aged children. The children’s books on this list can help to explore the refugee experience and the topic of immigration in an age-appropriate way.

NB: This booklist is aimed at children ages 4-7. If you are looking for KS2 books for this topic, we have a separate booklist here.

Helen Cooper
 & Gill Smith
Picturebook

A poetic, powerful story about a little brother and a big sister finding a new home and new hope after being rescued from a boat lost in the dark sea. A little brother and his big sister try their best to settle in a new home, where they have nothing left from before except each other. The little one makes new friends and quickly learns to laugh again but his sister remains haunted by the shadows of their past and hides away in their broken house. Trying to help his sister, the little one catches a butterfly for her and brings it inside the house. His sister knows that she needs to set the butterfly free … but that would mean going outside. In taking the first steps to face her fears and save the butterfly, she also begins the process of saving herself.

Hollis Kurman
 & Barroux
Picturebook

This is a counting book with a difference – the counting is a context for a story about forced migration. We follow a family who are forced to flee a war-torn country. They board a boat and travel to safety in another country where the children go to school and make new friends. It’s a hopeful and positive story which promotes kindness. Each page counts through different acts of kindness that helped the family in their difficult situation; 2 hands lifting the children to safety from the boat, 3 donated meals to fill the children up, 4 beds in a temporary shelter, 8 welcome gifts in the new home, 10 new friends to play with, etc. The simple format leaves plenty of space to think about and discuss the pictures, providing opportunities to discuss ways to be kind and to imagine what life might be like as a refugee.

Devon Holzwarth
Picturebook

When we first meet Sami he is remembering his homeland, his family and the friends he left behind when he fled. We see him playing by himself and feeling afraid of this new land where no-one speaks his language and he feels like he doesn’t fit in. When he visits a park with his mother a lonely little bird crashes into him. She is lost and asks Sami to help her find her friends. As Sami remembers where he has seen birds just like Little Bird he bumps into a little girl from his nursery but is too frightened to talk to her. He needs some persuasion! Little Bird encourages him to agree to playing with her and a new friendship is made. This book about a small child’s refugee experience will encourage understanding and plenty of discussion about how important it is to welcome newcomers into a new culture and new friendship groups.

Sandra Dieckmann
Picturebook

Leaf is a truly exceptional picture book. In very few words, Sandra Dieckmann is able to delicately touch upon several global issues. The story revolves around a polar bear who floats on an iceberg unwillingly (and unnaturally) to an island where he is not welcome by the inhabitants. The words tell half of the story, with, ‘the strange white creature carried upon the dark waves towards the shore.’ However, the illustrations manage to portray the significance of the situation, with the polar bear staring face down into the abyss as he floats further away from his natural home. The story doesn’t spell out why the polar bear is floating away from his home, but the message is poignant and delicately hits all of the right environmental notes. As a classroom practitioner, books like this are priceless as they open up conversations that may otherwise be too awkward or taboo.

Wendy Meddour & Daniel Egneus
Picturebook

As Lubna arrives in the World of Tents, so begins an emotional story about the power of friendship set against the background of the refugee crisis. Lubna’s best friend is a pebble, found on the beach as they arrived in the night. We are not told who ‘they’ are or where ‘they’ came from but throughout the captivating story there are many clues which help to build a picture of this family’s journey (for example, ‘she fell asleep in Daddy’s salty arms’). So it happens that a pebble becomes Lubna’s best friend – a friend to whom she can tell stories of her previous life, the life with her brothers and the life during the war. This picture book is a good introduction for younger children to the refugee crisis and the power of friendship.

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