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Immigration Books to Read - Grades 4-8


Anderson, Dale. Arriving at Ellis Island. (Landmark Events in American History series). World Almanac Library, 2002.
Reading Level: 6.6
An overview of immigration to the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with an emphasis on the important role that Ellis Island played in processing the newcomers. Includes historical photographs.

Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas. The Scandinavian American Family Album (American Family Albums Series). Oxford University Press, 1997.
Reading Level: 7.6
Like the other titles in this series, this book uses first-person narratives to describe the challenges faced by a group of people who immigrated to the United States. Includes numerous historical photos and detailed descriptions of everyday life.

Hoobler, Dorothy. We Are Americans: Voices of the Immigrant Experience. Scholastic, 2003
Reading Level: 6.3
Using personal narratives, this book chronicles the changing patterns of U.S. immigration over the years with a focus on the challenges faces by immigrants and how these newcomers have changed the United States.

Levine, Ellen. …If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island. Scholastic, 1993
Reading Level: 5.9
Using a question-and-answer format, this book explains what it was like to go through the immigration process on Ellis Island from the 1880’s to 1914.

Olson, Kay Melchisedech. Africans in America. (Coming to America series). Blue Earth Books, 2002.
Reading Level: 6.3
This book describes the horrors endured by Africans on the slave ships bound for America and the ensuing years of slavery. Includes archival photos, Internet sites and a listing of famous African-Americans. Additional nationalities are covered in other titles in this series.


Giff, Patricia Reilly. Maggie’s Door. Wendy Lamb Books, 2003
Reading Level: 5.2
A boy and girl set out on a dangerous journey from famine-plagued Ireland, hoping to reach a better life in America. Immigration history comes to life through a theme of courage and hope for the future. Factual information on the potato blight is presented in an afterword.

Hesse. Letters from Rifka. Puffin Books, 1993.
Reading Level: 5.1
Based on a true story, this novel describes the trials and perseverance of immigrants on their voyage to America. Twelve-year-old Rifka and her family flee to America in 1919 to escape the harsh treatment of Jews in Russia. Rifka documents the hardships in letters to her cousin, written in the blank pages of a book of poetry.

Hest, Amy. When Jessie Came Across the Sea. Candlewick Press, 1997.
Reading Level: 3.5
A thirteen-year-old girl from Eastern Europe immigrates to New York City, where she works as a seamstress for three years to earn money to bring her grandmother to the United States. The striking illustrations portray life aboard an immigrant ship and a spirit of hope and optimism.

Woodruff, Elvira. The Memory Coat. Scholastic, 1999.
Reading Level: 6.2
Through the experiences of two children, readers learn why Russian-Jewish families fled to America at the turn of the century to escape persecution. In an author's note, Woodruff describes the true story of an immigrant child who got through the dreaded Ellis Island inspections after her family turned her coat inside out.

Woodruff, Elvira. The Orphan of Ellis Island. Scholastic, 1997.
Reading Level: 5.5
During a school trip to Ellis Island a lonely ten-year-old orphan boy travels back in time to 1908 Italy and accompanies two young emigrants to America. An author's note tells of Woodruff's own Italian immigrant relatives. The time travel fantasy provides a sense of history and offers an unusual perspective on the true meaning of family.

Industrialization Books to Read - Grades 4 - 8


Bial, Raymond. The Mills. (Building America series). Benchmark/ Cavendish, 2002.
Reading Level: 6.5
Looks at the different types of mills used by people in the 1800’s to grind grain, saw logs into lumber, and create power. Also provides information about the men who specialized in building mills.

Carlson, Laurie M. Queen of Inventions: How the Sewing Machine Changed the World. Millbrook Press, 2003.
Reading Level: 5.2
Provides a look at the history of sewing and how it was transformed in the 1850s when American inventor Isaac Singer not only invented a practical sewing machine, but a way for everyone to afford one.

Crewe, Sabrina. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Gareth Stevens, 2004.
Reading Level: 6.1
Describes the events surrounding the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in March, 1911, and explains how the fire led social reformers and unions to fight for workers' rights.

Josephson, Judith Pinkerton. Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights. Lerner, 1997.
Reading Level: 4.8
A biography of Mary Harris Jones, the union organizer who worked tirelessly for the rights of American workers in their struggle for safety, shorter hours, and the end of child labor.

Kalman, Bobbie. The Gristmill. (Historic Communities series). Crabtree, 1990.
Reading Level: 5.0
Discusses the steps for building a gristmill and grinding grain into flour. Includes numerous illustrations.

Murdico, Suzanne J. Railroads and Steamships: Important Developments in American Transportation. Rosen, 2004.
Reading Level: 7.2
Explains how industrialization created a need for long-distance transportation in nineteenth century America, and chronicles the development of the steam locomotive, railroads, and the steamship.

O’Brien, Patrick. Steam, Smoke, and Steel: Back in Time with Trains. Charlesbridge, 2000.
Reading Level: 5.0
Describes the development of locomotives as seen through the eyes of a young boy and his family’s experiences driving trains from the 1830’s to the present.

Thimmesh, Catherine. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Reading Level: 6.0
Tells the story of how women throughout the ages have found creative solutions to problems in everyday life by inventing items such as correction fluid, space helmets, and disposable diapers.


Duey, Kathleen. Zellie Blake: Lowell, Massachusetts, 1834. Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002.
Reading Level: 6.1
A young girl working in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, faces a difficult decision when her boss asks her to spy on the other workers. Includes descriptions of daily life in the newly industrialized city of Lowell.

McCaughrean, Geraldine. Stop The Train! HarperCollins, 2001.
Reading Level: 6.2
In 1893 Oklahoma settlers fight the Red Rock Runner Railroad to keep the train coming into town, because they know that without the train their community will die.

Moss, Marissa. True Heart. Silver Whistle/Harcourt Brace, 1999.
Reading Level: 4.2
A young woman at the turn of the century realizes her dream of becoming a train engineer when a male engineer is injured and unable to drive his train.

Paterson, Katherine. Lyddie. Lodestar Books, 1991.
Reading Level: 6.5
A compelling story of an impoverished Vermont farm girl who becomes a factory worker in Lowell, Massachusetts. Lyddie is a strong female character who depicts the miserable life of mill workers in the 1800’s.

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