Researching Adolescent Immigrant History


photographic print, Young Greek Shoe-Shiners, April 1912, Lewis Wickes Hine, LO

I am a geography teacher in Los Angeles, CA. I want to teach about immigration to California from other countries to my 9th-grade students. Most of my students either have immigrant parents or are immigrants themselves. Do you have any suggestions as to where I can find resources about teen or child immigrants throughout history?


It’s great to hear that students are learning geography and I like your idea of using immigration, past and present, to help them learn this subject. A focus on children and teens only makes the plan more exciting, and I hope you find some resources that will fit your teaching goals and context in the set below.

California History Online

You may want to start with the go-to site for teaching K–12 California history, Calisphere. This site, produced by the California Digital Library at the University of California Libraries, has essays, texts, and images relevant to the history of California and its place in regional, national, and international events. Browse their collection on immigration here.
Search the site using the key phrase ”child immigrant” and you get hundreds of results including texts and images. Learn more about four groups, including African Americans and Hispanic Americans, by starting on their page, “California Cultures.”

Also check out the Library of Congress’s American Memory sites, California As I Saw It: California, 1849–1900 or Chinese in California, 1850–1925. At the latter site, one of the things you can find through an “immigration” search are official “certificates of residence.” Using one of these can provoke all kinds of questions from students and enable making connections to the present.

Focus on Children and Immigration

Additional potentially useful sites that address this topic include:

Print and Community Resources

Off-line, you may want to check out Phillip Hoose’s book, We Were There, Too! Young People in U.S. History. Here you will find short essays about specific young people in the past, both the famous and more obscure.

And don’t forget to check out your local museums, libraries, and independent bookstores. Often they have local history collections and programs that can help you make history come alive!

Good luck!

About the Author

Daisy Martin, Director of History Education at, recently co-authored Reading Like a Historian: Teaching Literacy in Middle and High School History Classrooms, published by Teachers College Press.