As parents, we strive to raise compassionate, open-minded, and globally aware children. One powerful way to instill these values is by celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month with our small children. Immigrant Heritage Month, observed in June, is a time to honor the diverse cultures and contributions of immigrants to our society. It provides a wonderful opportunity for us to engage our children in meaningful conversations about immigration, diversity, and the importance of embracing different cultures.

Why is Immigrant Heritage Month significant for children?

  1. Embracing Diversity: Immigrant Heritage Month encourages us to embrace the diversity that immigrants bring to our communities. By exposing our children to different cultures, languages, and traditions, we help them develop an appreciation for diversity from an early age. This understanding can shape their perspectives and foster a more inclusive society.
  2. Celebrating Ancestral Roots: Many families have immigrant roots, and Immigrant Heritage Month provides an occasion to explore and celebrate those roots. We can engage our children in conversations about their own family history, sharing stories of their ancestors’ journeys and the traditions they brought with them. This helps children develop a sense of pride in their cultural heritage and a deeper connection to their roots.
  3. Encouraging Empathy and Compassion: Learning about immigrant experiences helps children develop empathy and compassion for others. By discussing the challenges and triumphs of immigrants, we teach our children to appreciate the resilience and strength it takes to build a new life in a foreign land. This empathy can shape their attitudes and behaviors towards others, fostering a more inclusive and accepting mindset.
  4. Building Cultural Awareness: Immigrant Heritage Month is an opportunity to expose our children to the rich tapestry of cultures that make up our society. We can engage them in activities such as trying new foods, learning traditional dances, exploring different languages, or visiting cultural festivals. These experiences not only broaden their horizons but also promote cultural understanding and respect.

How can parents celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month with their children?

  1. Storytelling: Share stories about immigrant experiences through age-appropriate books, videos, or personal anecdotes. Discuss the challenges, sacrifices, and achievements of immigrants, highlighting the importance of diversity and the contributions immigrants make to our communities.
  2. Cultural Crafts and Activities: Engage your children in crafts or activities that highlight different cultures. Make traditional crafts, try cooking international recipes together, or learn a few words in a different language. These activities not only promote cultural awareness but also offer opportunities for creativity and hands-on learning.
  3. Community Engagement: Attend local cultural events or festivals that celebrate different immigrant communities. Expose your children to diverse music, dance, art, and food. Encourage them to interact with people from various backgrounds, fostering a sense of inclusion and appreciation for different cultures.
  4. Volunteer and Support Organizations: Research local organizations that support immigrants and refugees. Involve your children in age-appropriate volunteer activities or donate to causes that advocate for immigrant rights and provide support to newcomers. These experiences can teach children about empathy, kindness, and the power of helping others.
  5. Virtual Connections: Utilize technology to connect with immigrant communities worldwide. Arrange virtual meetups with families from different cultural backgrounds to share experiences, traditions, and stories. This helps broaden your children’s global perspectives and nurtures cross-cultural friendships.
  6. Read Picture Books on Immigration: One of the most powerful ways to introduce your children to the topic of immigration and foster empathy, understanding, and cultural awareness is by reading children’s books on the subject. These books have the incredible ability to transport young minds to different worlds, to open their hearts to new experiences, and to ignite their curiosity about the diverse tapestry of humanity. By reading stories of immigrants and their journeys, you can help your children develop a deeper understanding of the challenges, triumphs, and contributions of immigrants in our society. Through these stories, you will sow seeds of compassion, empathy, and acceptance, nurturing a generation that celebrates diversity and champions inclusivity. So, snuggle up with your little ones and embark on a literary adventure that will shape their understanding of the world around them and inspire them to become compassionate global citizens.

Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month with our small children is an incredible opportunity to teach them about the importance of diversity, compassion, and respect. By embracing different cultures and sharing the stories of immigrants, we lay the foundation for a more inclusive future. Let us take this month to celebrate the richness that immigrants bring to our lives and the vibrant tapestry of cultures that make our world so beautiful.

Recommended Reading

A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation

Written by Lindsey McDivitt
Illustrated by Charly Palmer

This stirring biography explores Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that propelled him through decades of struggle.

As Nelson Mandela lived and worked under the unjust system of apartheid, his desire for freedom grew.  South Africa separated people by races, oppressing the country’s non-white citizens with abusive laws and cruel restrictions. Every day filled Mandela with grief and anger. But he also had hope—hope for a nation that belonged to everyone who lived in it. 

From his work with the African National Congress, to his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his extraordinary rise to the presidency, Nelson Mandela was a rallying force against injustice. This stirring biography explores Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that propelled him through decades of struggle. Illustrated in the bold, bright colors of South Africa, A Plan for the People captures the spirit of a leader beloved around the world. 

Eva’s Story

By Eva Schloss
Ages 14 & up

People around the world know the tragic story of Anne Frank, the teenage girl who lost her life in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. But most people don’t know about Eva Schloss, Anne’s playmate and posthumous stepsister. Though Eva, like Anne, was imprisoned in Auschwitz at the age of 15, her story did not end there. Together with her mother, Eva endured daily degradation and countless miseries at the hands of the Nazis. She was freed in 1945, but it would be decades before Eva was able to share her survivor’s tale with the world.

Concluding with new discussion questions and a revealing interview with Eva, this moving memoir recounts—without bitterness or hatred—the horrors of war, the love between mother and daughter, and the strength and determination that helped a family overcome danger and tragedy.

Facing Fear: An Immigration Story

Written by Karen Lynn Williams
Illustrated by Sara Palacios

A powerful depiction of the everyday struggles faced by undocumented immigrants and their families. 

Enrique can’t believe his father won’t let him travel to his team’s big soccer tournament. Papi says going across the checkpoint is too risky. Even though Enrique is a U.S. citizen, the rest of the family isn’t—and if the border police stop them, the family might be split up. The next morning Enrique decides he’s going to his big game, no matter what. But the day ahead will change how he sees his dad and how he defines courage… 

This book is a powerful depiction of the everyday struggles faced by undocumented immigrants and their families. Sensitively told with expressive illustrations, Facing Fear explores the meaning of bravery and the strength of a community.

Mexique: A Refugee Story from the Spanish Civil War

Written by María José Ferrada
Illustrated by Ana Penyas

On May 27, 1937, over four hundred children sailed for Morelia, Mexico, fleeing the violence of the Spanish Civil War. Home was no longer safe, and Mexico was welcoming refugees by the thousands. Each child packed a suitcase and boarded the Mexique, expecting to return home in a few months. This was just a short trip, an extra-long summer vacation, they thought. But the war did not end in a few months, and the children stayed, waiting and wondering, in Mexico. When the war finally ended, a dictator—the Fascist Francisco Franco—ruled Spain. Home was even more dangerous than before. This moving book invites readers onto the Mexique with the “children of Morelia,” many of whom never returned to Spain during Franco’s almost forty-year regime. Poignant and poetically told, Mexique opens important conversations about hope, resilience, and the lives of displaced people in the past and today.

My Name is Sangoel

My Name is Sangoel children book for kids

Written by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed
Illustrated by Catherine Stock

Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him.

When Sangoel and his mother and sister arrive in the United States, everything seems very strange and unlike home. In this busy, noisy place, with its escalators and television sets and traffic and snow, Sangoel quietly endures the fact that no one is able to pronounce his name. Lonely and homesick, he finally comes up with an ingenious solution to this problem, and in the process he at last begins to feel at home.

Written by the authors of the acclaimed Four Feet, Two Sandals, this poignant story of identity and belonging will help young readers understand the plight of the millions of children in the world who are refugees.

Click here to buy this book