The them One world, One Story is perfect to highlight America's colorful and diverse history. In almost every American family, there are stories of great-grandpas, grandparents or parents who immigrated to the United States to pursue a better life. America is unique in it's identity around the world as the "melting pot". It is something to be quite proud of and not to be taken for granted or lightly. when children come to your library this summer offer them the opportunity to explore their family's heritage with books. If working with older children bookmark www.ellisisland.org on the public computers to encourage them to visit the famous Ellis Island. There they can search the records for their ancestors names or learn about how this Island was the first stop in the immigrants journey to America.
Many children's authors have attempted to depict the immigrant experience in America. The tales often take a look at the difference between their own and America's culture. At times it can be humorous and sometimes the reality of "homesickness" is shown so vividly the reader's understand with the characters' loneliness. When sharing these books, it is important to emphasize that all though the story may be fiction, the feelings that some of the characters feel are based on reality.
Librarians can use the immigration in a storytime program. A good ingredient to a memorable storytime is props. For this theme, have a black pot sitting in the front of the room. As the children arrive, have them choose a country's flag that represents their heritage. When the program begins, call off different countries and ask the children to place the flag in the "melting pot." After all the flags are collected, distract the children with music and a game. Then with a bit of magic (or as magician say "slight of hand") to replace the melting pot with a new pot. At the end of storytime, tell the children you will empty the pot and let them come up to get a flag. Lo and Behold! All the countries' flags are gone and now they are all American flags! Another approach to take is as the program begins, ask the children to close their eyes for a moment. Instruct them to imagine they are on a boat, as the boat is starting to pull away from the dock, they are waving goodbye to friends and families that they may never see again. How would they feel? Next, inform them on how many days it would take to cross the Atlantic to get to New York's Ellis Island. (Usually it took about a week) Hold up a picture of the Statue of Liberty and explain that this was the first sign of "hope" that many of the immigrants saw as they entered New York's harbor. Ask the children again, how do they think the immigrants felt when they knew they were going to start a new life in a new country? if this sounds too much like school for the summer time, then invite the grandparents to come to the storytime. It's a perfect time for a "generational program" and grandparents can share their own stories with their grandchild. Who could resist an opportunity like that? As an added bonus why not dedicate a bulletin board to showcase the grandparent and child's heritage and an old family photo of life in the old country versus life in the new country.
Whether reading the books aloud or providing a bibliographic handouts for patrons to take home, here are a few titles that tell the immigrant story well.
When I First Came To This Land Harriet Ziefert
The Name Jar Choi Yangsook
Chicken Sunday Patricia Palacco
Picnic In October Eve Bunting (This is title deals specifically with Ellis Island and The Sateu of Liberty.)
How I Learned Geography Uri Shulevitz
For a complete annotated list of great picture books on Immigration to the United States, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned, there are many more ideas yet to come for this summer.