Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teaching about US Immigration - nonfiction resources

As part of our study of world geography and world cultures in third grade, we also spend some time learning about immigration to the United States and talking about our own family histories. There are many great resources to help children understand some of the complexity and history behind immigration. This first post provides an overview to some of my favorite nonfiction resources for introducing the history of immigration to young and intermediate-aged elementary students.

The next posts in this series with cover historical fiction and memoir about Ellis Island and turn-of-the-century America and then modern immigrants and immigration. (Even more posts: Picture Books by René Colato LaínezNew Immigration Books, part 1: Syrian and Central American immigrants, and part 2: picture books and anthologies.)

Nonfiction Immigration Resources


The Story of Immigration (2002) by Robert Charles, Reading A-Z. This short nonfiction text introduces many important topics in US immigration including a history of immigration, background on immigration laws and reforms, and introduces three major symbols of immigration: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Angel Island.


Immigrant Kids (1980) by Russell Freedman. This fantastic resource introduces children to the photographic work of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine and juxtaposes photographs from the late 1800s and early 1900s with chapters describing what life was like for kids back then, including their homes, schools, work, and play. My students get so much out of reading this book, analyzing the photographs, and comparing and contrasting their own life experiences.


Ellis Island (2004) from Kids Discover magazine. This magazine focuses on the history and experience of coming to Ellis Island and includes many interesting side notes and small stories about actual experiences of individuals.


Immigration (2004) from Kids Discover magazine. This magazine explains about the history and impact of immigration to the United States with some focus on the turn-of-the-century immigrant experience. There are also brief interviews with recent immigrants and a section on immigration in other countries.


Tenement: immigrant life on the lower east side (2002) by Raymond Bial. I use this book mainly for the photographs, which include both historic photographs as well as modern ones from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This book is a detailed and informative look at tenement life for immigrants from the 1880s-1930s.


We Came Through Ellis Island: the immigration adventures of Emma Markowitz (2003) by Gare Thompson. This nonfiction book is told mainly through the diary entries and letters of the Markowitz family who left Russia in 1883 and went through Ellis Island on their way to tenement life on the Lower East Side of New York City.

Stay tuned! The next posts in this series with cover historical fiction and memoir about Ellis Island and turn-of-the-century America and then modern immigrants and immigration.




Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday Challenge is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and is a weekly roundup of educator blogs that are sharing nonfiction picture books. Click the link to check out other nonfiction posts.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing all of these resources on immigration. Have you read Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain by Russell Freedman? It was interesting for us to read about immigration through Angel Island.

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    1. No, I have not read that one, though I love Russell Freedman's works. The Story of Immigration book has a brief chapter that mentions Angel Island as well. Thanks for the tip!

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  2. I took my students to NYC one year & we spent a day at Ellis Island-a wonderful experience. I like the resources you have shared. The Immigrant Kids looks sweet, Katie. What a time they must have had. There are great resources online at the Tenement Museum if you're interested.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. The Tenement book is actually published by the Tenement Museum and features a lot of pictures from there, from what I understand. Definitely a place I would love to visit - Ellis Island too.

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  3. I'd love to take these resources and compare them to contemporary stories of immigration. Would be fascinating!

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    1. Absolutely, Kellee! My third post in this series will share some of my favorite picture books for kids about contemporary immigration.

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  4. Thanks for sharing these texts. Our 3rd grade does a unit on Ellis Island/immigration. I am passing along your site to our reading specialist who works with our 3rd grade. Thanks!

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    1. Great, Michele! Please stay tuned for the next two posts too. I'd love to hear if your specialist has any recommendations for books I may have overlooked.

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  5. It seems like immigration now days is what is being talked about a lot. I'm guessing that's because of how many foreign people like me are coming to the United States more frequently. Even my immigration lawyer has seen a growth of foreign people from South America and the Middle East coming this year than last year.

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  6. t seems like immigration now days is what is being talked about a lot. I'm guessing that's because of how many foreign people like me are coming to the United States more frequently. Even my immigration lawyer has seen a growth of foreign people from South America and the Middle East coming this year than last year.Immigration Law office of Ronen Kurzfeld

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