Kiddosphere: Remembering the Past: Books for Ellis Island Family History Day
Did you know that April 17 is “Ellis Island Family History Day?” Every April 17, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and the National Genealogy Society recognize the contributions of Ellis Island immigrants and their descendants to American history and culture. April 17 was chosen because more immigrants were processed through Ellis Island on April 17, 1907 than any other day (11,747). Over 40% of Americans (100 million people!) can trace their heritage to family members who were processed through Ellis Island. We have some outstanding books on Ellis Island and on immigration in general.
I love the National Geographic Kids’s nonfiction readers; finding informational books that are in between picture books and longer middle grade reads can be tricky, so I get these readers whenever I can. Ellis Island is an excellent look at the island’s history and its importance in American history. What Was Ellis Island? is another appealing look at this important landmark.
If you’re ever on Jeopardy! and are asked, “On what island would you find the Statue of Liberty?” Do NOT say, “What is Ellis Island.” Alex Trebek will give you a very disappointed look, as Lady Liberty is actually on Liberty Island, and not Ellis Island. Regardless, many Ellis Island immigrants’ recollections include their emotions as they saw the Statue of Liberty come into view, so including Her Right Foot is a natural choice. I hope Dave Eggers continues his offbeat nonfiction picture books; I loved his Golden Gate Bridge book, and this one is just as fun and inspiring.
Letters From Rifka has been a Fauquier County Battle of the Books title several times; the students are moved by this eye-opening look at a young girl escaping anti-Semitism in 1919’s Russia. While fleeing Russia and enduring the hardships and humilities of immigration, Rifka writes letters to her cousin left behind.
This Land is Our Land: The History of American Immigration is not just an overview of American immigrant groups throughout history, but also government and social responses to specific immigrant groups. Highlighting the period between 1800-1965, this is a unique look at how immigrants have been viewed and have changed our history.
If your young readers are interested in tracing their history (or if you want a fun guide about family history research for yourself!), don’t miss National Geographic Kids Guide to Genealogy, which we’ll receive shortly. We’ve needed an updated genealogy guide for children that includes information about modern genealogy tips and tricks, as well as suggestions for creating a family tree, interviewing family members, and more, so this will definitely come in handy!
We Came to America is a stirring tribute to the many groups who have made their home in America (including those who were enslaved). Whether they came to fulfill big dreams, or were fleeing persecution, their courage and determination are celebrated in Faith Ringgold’s beautiful picture book.
Finally, if you want an in-depth and powerful read for adults, City of Dreams: The 400 Year Epic History of Immigrant New York is for you. While overall histories of immigrant groups are detailed, this also includes personal histories of famous immigrants, starting with one of our recently “rediscovered” Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. If you’re like me and enjoy personal looks at history (rather than books about wars and battles), you will enjoy this one.
For program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers, make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library