Living Books: Arabic story books


Have you ever come across the term Living Books? A term coined by 19th century British educator Charlotte Mason. Fore a long time I had a hard time to define what a living book might be. I have only understood it better after I read few examples of living books.

Living books present living ideas, they are emotionally engaging and morally-challenging. Living books make child use his/her imagination and pauses some problems for their thought/mind. Children need to extract a conclusion that goes along way in their life. Living books teach children how to overcome certain situations in life, good manners, behaviour and above all they help children to develop relations. Relations with God, relations with family members, relation with neighbours etc.

We have read so many books with my girls and only now I can clearly distinguish a living book from non living. A lot of books are fact/information based, dry and written down to children. The lack of stylistic features of a language, short sentences and incorrect grammar are some features of twaddle. In a nutshell “Twaddle = dumbed down literature; absence of meaning. Living Books = books that are well-written and engaging–they absorb the reader–the narrative and characters “come alive”; living books are the opposite of cold, dry textbooks” (Deborah Taylor-Hough)

I have realized how I should carefully select the literature for my children. Alhamdulillah all the Islamic story books we have would be in the category of living books. But a lot of the English books are not, subhanAllah. They lack the meaning, they don’t pause a challenge of deriving a conclusion for a child that she/he can apply in real life.
Recently I have come across a nice collection of Arabic story books through a sister’s blog. The books are written in beautifully stylistic language using the correct Arabic grammar rules in fus’ha. And when Abu Sumayya read them aloud to our daughters, even they have clearly noticed the difference between these stories and many of the English stories they have read so far. The books are indeed very engaging, puts a child in touch with ideas and excellent sequence of events that challenges their problem-solving skills.
My husband has printed all those books. Initially we have laminated each page and did manual-binding at home to make the seperate pages into a book. SubhanAllah each book contains average 16-20 pages so we gave up after making 9 books. For the remaining 12 books we bought a binding plastic cover. So, Alhamdulillah we have more than 20 children’s Arabic story books to be read aloud at home now.
I am not a fluent reader in Arabic and I should be doing more to improve my own Arabic (learning with kids, smile). But, alhamdulillah, my husband reads about an hour to them daily and yet Sumayya keeps asking for more and more. (I am not surprised, they are awesome books)
So, Abu Sumayya reads books aloud in Arabic and then translates them into Uzbek. We ask kids to narrate the stories.  Each book has a list of vocabulary to memorize and learn. Sumayya has picked up a lot of words and word combinations from being read aloud. She really loves these new books.
Here are some samples of our each-page-laminated home-bound books, on the left. On the right, books made with plastic cover bindings. (These can be bought cheaply at any store)
Here are the sample of vocab sheet to be memorized at the end of each story. Kids will learn most of these words off by heart naturally if they are read aloud often enough to reinforce the story and the morale from it.
InshaAllah I will leave you with a link to a blog where you can download the books and start having your own collection of Arabic story books to be read aloud at bed time.