World Refugee Day, an international observance observed June 20th each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world.
From the 18th to the 24th June is Refugee Week, a week that seems to grow in significance every year as the world deals with more and more refugees. I have written about books to use during this week before, here, here, here and here, but this year I want to share two new books which are ideal to share with very young children. Books such as Barroux's Welcome looks at what we need to do, but for students to have empathy for refugees, 'walking in their shoes' using books such as these two may be beneficial.
• My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner
Here a young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too. It is a powerful and moving exploration that draws the young reader into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make. This is Kate Milner's first book. Here is some of the background to its publication.
• My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo
Here we see the story of a Syrian boy, Sami. Behind Sami, the Syrian skyline is full of smoke. The boy follows his family and all his neighbours in a long line, as they trudge through the sands and hills to escape the bombs that have destroyed their homes. But all Sami can think of is his pet pigeons--will they escape too? When they reach a refugee camp and are safe at last, everyone settles into the tent city. But though the children start to play and go to school again, Sami can't join in. When he is given paper and paint, all he can do is smear his painting with black. He can't forget his birds and what his family has left behind. One day a canary, a dove, and a rose finch fly into the camp. They flutter around Sami and settle on his outstretched arms. For Sami it is one step in a long healing process at last. A gentle yet moving story of refugees of the Syrian civil war, My Beautiful Birds illuminates the ongoing crisis as it affects its children. The artwork is beautiful, Sami has the same concerns as all children and can still think of others besides himself.
"This story of one frightened little boy who finds strength in caring for animals and uses that strength to comfort other kids is an excellent means of explaining a difficult subject to young children. "(Kirkus)
This story could be paired with Lost and Found Cat by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes which also looks at a young child having to leave a pet behind.
In fact, there are beginning to be a lot of children's books that have the plight of refugees as a theme. On this pinterest page there are picture books worth looking for in your library.