There has never been a more important time to address issues of refugees, alienation and racism. With feelings running high in many countries of the world – especially the UK – this is an important subject to raise in classrooms. Many of our primary schools have welcomed children from other countries, some refugees, some seeking asylum. This poem, Citizen of the World by Dave Calder, will get the class thinking about how children must feel when they arrive in a new place, perhaps not of their own choosing. It begins:
when you are very small
maybe not quite born
your parents move
for some reason you may never understand they move
from their own town
from their own land
and you grow up in a place
that is never quite your home
The full text of the poem can be found here, along with other poems by Dave Calder. It is hard to find much information about Dave Calder, other than he edited The Usborne Book of Funny Poems.
Start the lesson by asking children what the word ‘home’ means to them. Make a list of class responses and some typical vocabulary.
Then show them a picture, such as the one above. Here are some possible discussion questions:
Who are these people?
Where are they going?
How are they feeling? Look at their faces.
Why do people have to leave one country and go to another?
What does the word ‘home’ mean to them? How does this compare to your idea of ‘home’ discussed earlier?
Perhaps someone in your class could share a story from personal experience of moving from one place to another. Perhaps someone has had to move to another country, not of their own choosing.
Then read, and experience, the poem. Ask children what they like about it, and what puzzles them about it. What does the line ‘with a smile or a fist‘ mean?
More poems about refugees
Other poems about refugees include We Refugees by Benjamin Zephaniah, though the reading is not by him.
This video is of a poem by a 12-year-old girl called Reema who had to flee Syria after her school was bombed. It was made by Oxfam America.
If you have suggestions of other poems about refugees, I would be pleased to receive them.