I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien It’s September, the start of a new school year. I have no apples for you teachers, but I do have the perfect back-to-school picture book to teach empathy and point of view: I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien.

Maria, Jin, and Fatimah are new to their schools and to the United States. Through their stories, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to hear a new language, to see a new alphabet, and to try to pick up a new set of classroom expectations. “Back home… I knew just what to do.” All of your students can relate to the unsettled feeling of a first day in a new classroom. With I’m New Here, you can expand upon that feeling to help your students empathize with people who are new to our country. I love that Anne Sibley O’Brien not only shows what it’s like to be an immigrant, but how we all learn from each other. On one page, O’Brien writes from Jin’s point of view, “I am learning from others. And they are learning from me.” Jin asks a little boy, “How to spell cloud?” The boy responds, “C-L-O-U-D.” Jin holds up a piece of paper with Korean characters on it. “This is cloud in Korean.” “Cool.”

Michelle A., a gifted kindergarten teacher of English as a Second Language students and a remarkable friend, told me about Step Inside thinking. After you’ve read through the book, ask your students to “step inside” a character and imagine that they are Maria, Jin, or Fatimah. Students can write and draw from the perspective of the character, describing what was a challenge and what helped. You can turn this book into a readers’ theater script for students to perform, or have students take on the roles in an impromptu performance as you reread the book. As a class, you can talk and write about what you all can do to help a new student feel welcome. Whether or not you gain a new student during the year, all of your students will gain a wider, more empathetic perspective from I’m New Here.


  1. Hi, Kristen,
    Thanks so much for this lovely review.
    I wanted to let you know that we’re in the process of creating a book trailer/teaching tool, which will be live on the I’M NEW HERE page on my website by the end of September, with children talking about what it feels like to be new and how we can welcome others.


    • Oh my goodness, Annie, what a pleasure to “meet” you! I’ll keep a look-out for the book trailer and the teaching tool for I’M NEW HERE. 🙂

  2. This book is a treasure. You are totally right about it being the perfect book for our little learners, presenting a difficult topic in simple, wonderful terms. I am pleased to have this book in my tool belt for the start of the school year with my ELL students and at the ready when new children arrive mid-year. Once again, you hit it out of the park, Ms.
    Remenar! I want to share it with all at Hiller tomorrow, I love it so much.

    • When I saw this book, I immediately thought of your class, M! So glad you found it beneficial!

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