In today’s diverse and interconnected world, it is essential for educators to foster empathy, understanding, and global awareness among their students. One powerful tool for achieving this goal is literature. Refugee by Alan Gratz is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that not only captivates young readers but also provides a unique opportunity for teachers to explore important themes like empathy, resilience, and the refugee experience.  

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It is crucial for educators to foster empathy, promote global awareness, and instill a deep understanding of history in their students. Alan Gratz meets these needs with Refugee.  


  Benefits of Using Refugee in Your Classroom

  • Contains Timely and Relevant Themes:  In today’s global context, issues related to refugees and immigration are more relevant than ever. Refugee weaves together the stories of three young refugees from different time periods and backgrounds, highlighting the universal nature of the refugee experience. This novel allows students to explore the contemporary relevance of these themes and fosters a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by refugees in the world today and in the past.
  • Fosters Empathy and Perspective-Taking:  One of the key benefits of using Refugee in the classroom is its ability to foster empathy. Through the stories of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud, students are transported into the lives of young refugees and can relate to their struggles, fears, and hopes. This empathy-building experience encourages students to develop a greater appreciation for diversity and a stronger sense of social responsibility.
  • Provides Cross-Curricular Opportunities:  Teachers can use Refugee as a versatile tool for cross-curricular learning. It can be integrated into various subjects, such as social studies, history, language arts, and geography. By incorporating the novel into different parts of the curriculum, students can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the refugee experience and its historical and geographical contexts.
  • Sparks Critical Thinking and Discussion: Refugee‘s compelling narrative is an excellent catalyst for class discussions and critical thinking. Teachers can use Refugee to engage students in conversations about topics like immigration policies, human rights, and the power of storytelling. This, in turn, encourages students to develop their analytical skills and the ability to express their ideas and opinions. These discussions empower students to engage with the world and become informed, active citizens who can contribute to positive change.
  • Offers Diverse and Relatable Characters:  Alan Gratz skillfully creates well-developed characters whom readers can connect with. By following the journey of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud, students of various backgrounds can find characters with whom they can identify. This diversity allows students to see the common humanity that transcends cultural, ethnic, and geographical differences.
  • Implements a Multidimensional Learning Experience:  One of the outstanding benefits of Refugee is that it provides students with a multidimensional learning experience. The novel weaves together the stories of three young refugees from different time periods and locations: Josef in 1930s Nazi Germany, Isabel in 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud in 2015 Syria. By following these characters on their perilous journeys to find safety, students gain an appreciation of the universal themes of displacement, resilience, and the quest for freedom.
  • Addresses Critical Historical Events: Using Refugee in the classroom allows teachers to connect literature with history. The novel introduces students to significant historical events such as World War II, the Cuban Revolution, and the Syrian Civil War. By examining these events through the eyes of young protagonists, students can develop a more personal and relatable connection to history, making the lessons more memorable and impactful.
  • Enhances Reading and Writing Skills:  As a work of historical fiction, Refugee challenges students to analyze and evaluate historical context while honing their reading and writing skills. Students can engage in activities such as character analysis, thematic exploration, and creative writing, which strengthen their critical thinking and communication abilities.

Refugee by Alan Gratz is an exceptional novel that provides a unique opportunity for teachers to foster empathy, understanding, and critical thinking among their students. By exploring timely and relevant themes, encouraging perspective-taking, and offering cross-curricular opportunities, this novel serves as a valuable educational tool. Its diverse and relatable characters, along with the abundance of complementary resources, make Refugee an ideal choice for teachers looking to inspire their students and create a more inclusive and compassionate world. Introduce Refugee into your classroom and embark on a journey of empathy and learning with your students.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Refugee, which includes informational WebQuests to learn more about the Sturmabteilung (SA), Kristallnacht, Hitler’s Youth, the MS St. Louis, Fidel Castro and Cuba, and the Syrian Civil War for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.




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