Reading Planet Book of the Month: Journeys: The Story of Migration to Britain

Writing Journeys was another peak on the learning journey that I’ve been travelling since I started teaching History in 1993. Throughout my career I have been passionate about creating a curriculum for my students that reflects their experiences and heritages. In 2006 I set up a website called which gathered together all the resources that I and other history teachers had produced to teach the stories of Black Britons that had been marginalised from the mainstream curriculum.  The website opened many doors for me and led to my first venture into writing when I was commissioned to write a 6 book Black History series for Hachette (which is being reprinted in October 2020).  This was followed by my first book for a reading scheme, Walter Tull: Footballer, Soldier, Hero (Collins Educational) which was very successful and used in primary schools across the country.

Throughout this time, I was building my subject knowledge on multicultural British History, developing my classroom materials and presenting workshops at the Schools History Project conference and leading CPD across the UK. I was also an active member of the Black and Asian Studies Association (BASA) and contributed to their draft curriculum that was written in response to the proposed changes to the History National Curriculum in 2013. As a consequence of this proposal, myself and three other members of the BASA education committee (Professor Hakim Adi, Marika Sherwood and Martin Spafford) were approached by OCR to write the specification for their new GCSE units on the history of migration to Britain over the last thousand years. This was followed by an invitation to write two textbooks on the topic for the OCR migration exams. Once the books were completed, I was also asked to become the examiner for the OCR course and for the last five years I have written the exam papers for the migration depth study and historical environment units.

All of these experiences meant that when I heard about Rising Stars’ proposal for writing a book for the Reading Planet series about migration I knew that I was ready to take on this exciting challenge. However just as important as my confidence in the subject knowledge was the personal connection that I had to the topic. As I mention in the last few pages of the book my own history is dominated by migration stories ranging from  my great grandparents and grandparents escaping from persecution and seeking refuge in Britain, to my marriage to a migrant from the US. My teaching career in multicultural schools in London has exposed me to the vibrant and dynamic diversity that migration has bought to this country. Of all the books that I have written, this one is closest to my heart, which is why it was so exciting to see it come off the printing press and into schools.   



The book can be used in many different ways. In its simplest form, Journeys reveals to the students some incredible stories including some from my own family history including my maternal grandparents (pictured below) who escaped Nazi Germany, and my paternal grandparents who were involved in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 when the Jewish and Irish communities of London’s East End fought off the fascists trying to march through their streets. However students can also use the book to look at the different themes that tie migration histories together: the reasons why migrants have come to Britain over the last thousand years; their experiences both positive and negative; and the impact that migrants have had on their host country. Students can also explore the range of different writing styles that have been used in the book ranging from imagined interviews with key individuals, historical fiction such as the story of Cable Street, and case studies alongside the narrative that weaves the history together.                                                                                                                                                                                       

Primary teachers that have used Journeys in their classroom have selected different elements of the book to focus on. At my children’s primary school in Hackney, the Year 6 teachers wanted to focus on the 20th century but look further than the Windrush story that has tended to dominate this narrative. One of the lessons they created was based on the case study of Jayaben Desai, who led the Grunwick strike in 1976. Remarkably it turned out that the mother of one of the teachers was also involved in the dispute which was only realised when he saw a photo of her next to Jayaben on the picket line. You can view the photo here.  Other teachers have used the book to draw out the development of migration through time using a range of stories from the Middle Ages to present day and asking students to produce a time line wall display showing the different themes found in the book. I have used the book in my classroom to inform my teaching of migration histories across the whole of Key Stage 3.

As pleased as I am with the text that I wrote for the book, it was when I saw this in conjunction with the superb artwork that has been produced by Parwinder Singg, that I was able to be really show off Journeys. I was particularly pleased to be able to include some family photos as well as an original print by the Bristol artist Helen Wilson-Roe whose work I have followed for many years. The feel of the book is hugely satisfying, the content is so apposite for Britain today, and I hope it will be used in classrooms around the country for many years.


An extract from Journeys: The Story of Migration to Britian

About the author

Dan Lyndon-Cohen has been teaching History in schools across London for over 25 years. He is currently Lead Practitioner for Humanities at Park View School in Tottenham. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Schools History Project. Dan has written many books on multicultural British history.

About the book  

Journeys: The Story of Migration to Britain ((Saturn/Blue-Red band) uncovers the stories of people who migrated from their own countries and settled in Britain. Children will find out why they migrated, experience what life was like for them, and celebrate how they have helped to make Britain such a thriving and vibrant place to live. The book is part of the Reading Planet range for Key Stage 2/P4-7 and is available in a pack or as an eBook in the Online Library. 

Reading age: Age 10-11/Year 5-6 

Themes and topics include:  Migration, World War One, World War Two, The British Empire, The Tudors, The Middle Ages

View an extract from the book here 

Buy the book as part of the Reading Planet Saturn (Blue-Red) Pack here

Access the book as an online eBook with interactive quiz via a FREE Online Library trial. Learn more here. Already have a trial or subscription? Log in here

Want to buy multiple copies of Journeys: The Story of Migration? Contact your local consultant now. 

Learn more about Reading Planet here


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