11 Books to Teach Students About the Refugee Experience

When it comes to teaching students about the refugee experience, books can be invaluable resources. They not only provide insights into the challenges and triumphs faced by refugees but also foster empathy and understanding among young readers. Here are 11 books that can help students gain a deeper understanding of the refugee experience:

  1. “Inside Out and Back Again” by Thanhha Lai: This award-winning novel tells the story of ten-year-old Ha, a Vietnamese refugee who resettles in Alabama after the Vietnam War.
  1. “The Journey” by Francesca Sanna: This beautifully illustrated picture book portrays a family’s harrowing journey to escape their war-torn homeland and find a new home.
  1. “Refugee” by Alan Gratz: This gripping novel follows the interconnected stories of three refugee children throughout history – a Jewish boy in 1930s Germany, a Cuban girl in the 1990s, and a Syrian boy in the present day.
  1. “The Red Pencil” by Andrea Davis Pinkney: In this novel in verse, Amira, a twelve-year-old girl in war-torn Sudan, finds hope and healing through the power of art and education.
  1. “Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey” by Margriet Ruurs: Through simple text and striking artwork, this picture book explores the challenges faced by a Syrian family as they flee their home.
  1. “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park: Based on a true story, this novel tells the story of Salva Dut, a Sudanese “Lost Boy” who walks miles in search of safety and ultimately becomes a humanitarian activist.
  1. “The Only Road” by Alexandra Diaz: Jaime and his cousin Ángela embark on a dangerous journey from Guatemala to the United States, fleeing violence and poverty, in this powerful and timely middle-grade novel.
  1. “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid: This adult novel follows the love story of Saeed and Nadia, who escape their war-torn homeland through magical doorways, highlighting the universal experience of displacement.
  1. “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan: This wordless graphic novel explores the bewildering experience of immigration through intricate and evocative illustrations.
  1. “Hope in My Heart: Sofia’s Immigrant Diary” by Kathryn Lasky: Set in the early 1900s, this historical fiction series follows the journey of Sofia, a young Italian immigrant pursuing the American Dream.
  1. “Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town” by Warren St. John: This nonfiction book chronicles the inspiring true story of a soccer team made up of refugee boys and their dedicated coach, who bring together a diverse community.

These 11 books offer a range of perspectives and narratives to help students develop empathy, compassion, and a deeper understanding of the refugee experience. Whether they are read independently or as part of a classroom discussion, these books can spark important conversations about empathy, identity, and the importance of welcoming refugees.


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