"I wish everyone who is cynical about America could be here today. This is fantastic."
These words were said by someone who attended the recent graduation ceremony for the adult ESL (English as a Second Language) program I volunteer with in Alexandria, Virginia. The classes begin with level A (for beginners) and go up to level G. I teach level D-2. This semester my students came from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Morocco, Honduras, El Salvador, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, South Korea, Sudan, Pakistan, Peru, and Jordan. All came to America in search of a better life and a brighter future for themselves and their children. They are diligent, dedicated, motivated, friendly, supportive and kind. Getting to know these courageous men and women has enriched my life immeasurably, and I am very proud of their accomplishments--including mastering the present perfect tense! So in honor of Aisha, Helen, Sara, Pranee, Erik, Vilma, Hsiang-chi, and the others--and in light of the current debate about U.S. immigration policy--I am highlighting nonfiction kids' books about the immigrant experience in the U.S. Here are a few I came across at my local library and bookstore. If you have other titles to recommend, please share them!
DENIED, DETAINED, DEPORTED: STORIES FROM THE DARK SIDE OF AMERICAN IMMIGRATION, by Ann Bausum (2009)
"Does our nation, built by immigrants, have room for more newcomers? Should individual rights be sacrificed for homeland security? With personal narratives and heartbreaking photographs, this beautifully designed photo-essay connects past immigration issues of economics, racism, national security, and patriotism with what is happening now." (Booklist review)
HOW PEOPLE IMMIGRATE, by Sarah De Capua (2004)
This "True Book" offers a matter-of-fact explanation of the immigration process in the United States, from applying for an immigration visa to obtaining a green card to becoming a U.S. citizen.
SHUTTING OUT THE SKY: LIFE IN THE TENEMENTS OF NEW YORK 1880-1924, by Deborah Hopkinson (2003)
This chronicle of the American dream focuses on immigrant life in the tenement houses of the Lower East Side of New York City.
COMING TO AMERICA: THE STORY OF IMMIGRATION, by Betsy Maestro, illustrated by Susannah Ryan (1996)
This picture book explores the evolving history of immigration to America--beginning thousands of years ago--and explains the richness and diversity of the American people, past and present.
IMMIGRANT KIDS by Russell Freedman (1980)
An oldie but a goodie, this photo essay explores the lives of the sons and daughters of poor European immigrants who came to America almost a century ago.