Using Stories of Immigrant Women to Open the World to Your Students

Immigrants have lately been in the news cycle once again, particularly those at the southern U.S. border. But, as you know, one problem with any news source is that they don’t always tell the whole story. 

Many of you have newly arrived immigrant students in your classrooms. In addition to the visible language barrier, they also often deal with the effects of trauma from their journey to your classroom, not to mention ongoing discrimination in various forms.

Your genuine care for their linguistic, academic, and emotional needs will go a long way in helping them adjust to their new environment and learn to thrive. As teachers, we know the potential these students possess, but it is sometimes difficult for them to imagine a future different than what they have experienced.

For these reasons and many others, it is important for teachers to not only show care for students, but to show them possible futures through literature. Hearing the stories of immigrants and their positive contributions to the world can light a spark in young immigrants today.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World by Elena Favilli is one resource full of these stories. It contains one-page summaries of the contributions of each woman, along with a full-page artistic drawing of them in their context. A wide variety of women are profiled, including Daniela Soto-Innes, a Mexican immigrant who became a chef; Sau Lan Wu, an immigrant from Hong Kong who is now a physicist; and Hazel Scott, an immigrant from Trinidad who is a musician and activist.

One interesting part of the book is that it highlights the fact that immigration happens around the globe, not just in the US – a fact some children may not recognize. For example, journalist Elene Poniatowska immigrated from France to Mexico, and Pnina Tamano-Shata immigrated from Ethiopia to Israel, becoming a lawyer and lawmaker.

This text would be a great source of short read-alouds to use in those few minutes before your class goes to lunch or when they are waiting for the dismissal bell. It would also be a fabulous addition to any classroom library. Giving students a glimpse into how immigrants have crossed literal and figurative boundaries in order to make their mark on the world can inspire them to do the same.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World
Elena Favilli
ISBN: 978-1733329293

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