Alhamdulillah, kids love reading. If we give them a bunch of new books reading will keep them busy for hours. We often go to visit the neighbours and the girls always sit reading one of their books, mashaAllah.
Sumayya is 5, 5 years of age. She reads 10+ books daily. This is not guided reading like we used to do when she was small. She just comes and picks one of the books in the living room and keeps on reading in her own free time until she is bored. She has read lots of children’s chapter books and novels.
We go to the library every Thursday afternoons. We take out between 25-35 books each week. Lsst Thursday we took 32 books and MashaAllah, Sumayya finished them all in few hours before she went to bed on the same day. She rereads them all in the next few days until she absolves all the content. After reading and rereading she starts discussing them with me. This is what I love best at the moment, discussing the books she has read with her, mashaAllah. Simple things give them so much pleasure.
At the moment, she likes sorting out what she reads into two categories which books are 1) Real-life stories 2) Pretend stories. And after sorting them out into two main groups, she starts analysing the content in each books. She tells me what was good and what was bad about each character etc. So, I can see Charlotte Mason’s narration method is really working, mashaAllah.
There was a story about a girl who keeps eating cheese and bread instead of a cooked meal. She was fussy about vegetables and she always refused to eat the meals her mommy cooked. One day she grew furry ears, the next day a tail. Slowly-slowly she turned into a mouse. So, Sumayya was saying to me it would never happen in real life even if someone eats cheese and bread all the time. Because, only if Allah says “BE” or “Turn into a mouse” then it could happen. But, Allah would not say that. What really happens in real-life if someone keeps eating cheese and bread is a) she might get stomach ache b) she doesn’t grow properly because you need vegetables and fruit to grow properly. And she concludes, if she was to write this story she would write it like this and give me her ideas.
Most books we take out are longer story books containing 20-30+ pages and chapter books for young readers containing 100+pages. I am getting better at choosing good-quality, magic-shirk free LIVING books for children, alhamdulillah. When I first read about the concept of LIVING BOOKS I was really puzzled. But, Alhamdulillah, with time and experience everything started making sense.
Living books are linguistically rich, language is not dumbed down so the purpose of reading is not JUST being able to read the book. Living books always present good sequence to the story so child finds it easy to picture in his/her head without relying on pictures. Living books always have strong morale so what we are really doing by providing our children with these books is putting their brain in touch with ideas. And, mashaAllah, I have come to believe how what children read influences their self-being and character building. So, the phrase WE ARE WHAT WE EAT can be rephrased as WE ARE WHAT WE READ.
So, based on WE ARE WHAT WE READ statement, I have purchased lots of Islamic story books recently published by Islamic Foundation in the UK. Alhamdulillah, we have read and discussed them all. I bought other books with muslim characters. Also, the set of books for our Islamic Studies lessons: Tasheelul-Aqaid, Tasheelul-Ahadith, Tasheelul-Adaab wal Akhlaaq, Tasheelut Tareeh. MashaAllah, these books are so awesome. I have never come across such well-planned and well-organized Islamic Studies curriculum than these books. Stories, hadiths, workbooks and little talk discussions are most amazing and so relevant to children’s daily experience. JazakAllah khayr to a sister who has brought these to my attention. They are published by Jamiatul Ulama Taalim Board in South Africa. (A group of local educators checked all the books in the set and alhamdulillah it was approved by all to use the books in our teaching)
To satisfy Sumayya’s reading needs, her father recently bought a bag of children’s novels from a charity shop. She read and reread them all. Then when we went to the library last time there was a big book sale. I looked through the books and chose 20. I could not believe we only paid 50 pence at the till for all those 20 books. MashaAllah, there were some really good books by Julia Donaldson and one Islamic story book by Naima Robert. We now have nearly 400 children’s books in the house all of which the girls have read. Mostly, it is Ibrahim who wants to read them and keeps pulling them out and leave on the floor. So, the only downside is we are all getting really tired of tidying books after Ibrahim and Safiyya. I have to come up with some better shelving idea for the books, inshaAllah.
Safiyya started reading sometime ago, alhamdulillah. She reads almost all words but she still does not want to read one whole book from beginning to end independently. So, we do guided-reading with her. I sit her in my lap and read, pointing to words here and there and she reads them words. Her independent reading is looking at the illustrations and randomly reading words on odd pages. Alhamdulillah, she is more interested in books than ever before. But, I can see she is not going to be like her sister who reads into the midnight and keeps on reading in the morning as soon as the sun out, without even having breakfast. They are so different in so many ways, mashaAllah.