Islamic Books for Children

Bismillah,

So, your child can read. She is reading books. I suppose after children start reading and have developed the joy of reading, the most important task for parents is to provide them with good books. Books that help them to broaden their horizons; Books that help them to understand the world; Books that help them to differentiate between what is good and what is bad; Books that help them to shape a morally responsible character; Books that promote virtue and discourage vice.

Alhamdulillah, there are many Islamic story books out there than ever before. I would not say we get lots of choice or we always get the quality we want. Nevertheless, the market is developing and with each year behind, we can see more and more Islamic story books aimed at Muslim children of all ages.

Here is my long awaited book review for some of the books we have purchased awhile ago. Alhamdulillah, children have learned so much through these books.

1. A Concise Children’s Encyclopedia of Islam– big S is very much into encyclopaedic books at the moment. I would especially recommend this for children between the ages of 7-10 as they get to read about various phases of Islamic history, Muslim countries, inventions made by Muslims scholars, Islamic rituals and much more. Very interesting to read and beautiful illustrations (with no eyes)

2. Room 101 and Other Stories– I was very much impressed with this book. It is definitely a MUST have book for each Muslim household. Stories were originally written in Arabic by Dr. Ahmad Bassam Saeh, later translated into English by Dr. Imran Alawiye. There are twelve stories altogether, written both in Arabic and English (half a page in English, half a page in Arabic). A great tool for those children who need to practise their Arabic reading and vocab through stories. The book is made using great quality paper, hardcover and contains beautiful illustrations. Each story is so relevant and appealing to today’s society.  Children are encouraged to draw their own conclusions through characters’ behaviour and actions. They learn through each story that whenever a bad/evil is committed there will be a consequence to meet; Whenever good is done there will be a reward to reap; The head of all good deeds is the obedience to Allah swt. Big S (who will be 6 next week inshaAllah) loves this book and reads it every night. Little S (4 year old now) loves to be read as this is too difficult for her to read by herself.

3. Stories of the Prophets– again this book was written originally in Arabic by Sayyed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, translated into English much later. This is ideal for more older children between the ages of 9-12, as it uses text only and no illustrations. It presents the lives of major prophets’ sent by Allah in more greater depth, using Qur’anic and hadeeth references. It is very informative, yet simple and easy to understand for children 7+. Ideal to be used as textbook in class, at home or school etc. It helps a child to understand all prophets’ mission through perceptive observations. Highly recommended

4. Allah and Me- Learning to Live Allah’s Way, teaches that a Muslim does everything for Allah. The book helps to form a strong faith in “Allah knows what is best for us”. The stories are short, simple and easy to understand. There is a Q&A and task based activity after each story. So, you can invite a child to have a follow up discussion after each story to find out what Allah expects from children, what He likes, what He dislikes etc. I find this book very practical as we often refer to one of its stories during the day. The stories are appealing and relevant to most children’s daily life. Allah and Me discusses some Islamic virtues/rituals which we should practise in our daily life in order to live according to Allah’s will. A perfect book to link child’s every action to Allah; to introduce a healthy dose of love of Allah and fear of Allah. (Illustrations are okay)

5. The story of Muhammad saw in Madina– simple and concise introduction to seerah for slightly older children, I would say 6+. Our 6 year old really enjoyed reading it all by herself. Great book to be read to children 4+. Excellent quality paper and excellent illustrations. Stories contain informative explanations and vivid descriptions.

6. These are set of story books published by The Islamic Foundation. We have had them for awhile now. I would say big S grew out of them but they are perfect catch for small S, so ideal for children between 4-6.

Hilmy the Hippo series, 5 books with excellent content and illustrations in this set titled: Hilmy the Hippo learns to Share; Hilmy the Hippo learns to be Grateful, Hilmy the Hippo learns about Death; Hilmy the Hippo learns about Vanity, Hilmy the Hippo learns not to Lie. 

I Can series, 4 board books with awesome illustrations in this set: I Can Read Qur’an Anywhere, I Can Wear Hijab Anywhere, I Can Make Dua Anywhere, I Can Say Bismillah Anywhere.

A Caring Neighbour– A Caring Neighbour

Our Grandad– 

 

 

Cindrella- an Islamic Tale- Cinderella - An Islamic TaleFinally, the set of books about “Know How’s” by Writeway Publications for younger children. These are not story books but lists a number of things about How To Be a Good Muslim on various topics with beautiful illustrations on each page. There are 4 books in this set titled  How To Eat and Drink; How To Be A Good Child; and How To Be Safe; How To Keep Clean. These have been little S’s favourite books recently and little I loves them too.

Alhamdulillah, we have been so far very pleased with our purchase of Islamic books for children. I have to admit that they are a bit expensive sometimes. But, we can not purchase them in charity shops, most libraries in the UK do not provide great variety of Islamic story books for Muslim children and these books are definitely not available in car boot sales. So, we have no choice but to buy them sometimes. InshaAllah, it is a good investment in shaping our children’s character. I can see this especially in big S since she reads these books all the time and then questions me on certain aspects of our life in order to understand more; or certain actions of book characters to make out the conclusion.

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Farthing Wood Friends

Bismillah,

My dear friend from Edinburgh sent children a parcel about two months ago. There were some animal stickers and about 10 issues of children’s magazine called Farthing Wood Friends. I was not aware of the existence of this magazine previously. MashaAllah, these kept Sumayya busy for weeks on end. And all three children learnt so much about animals. What I really liked about this magazine in particular

  • It teaches children about animals and nature in general. Children grow up to be in so much harmony with the environment around them
  • The activities inside are very engaging and thought-provoking
  • It uses plenty of real-life pictures of animals/plants in nature. Some really capturing moments one just wants to look at for few minutes and say SubhanAllah
  • It uses really beautiful illustrations
  • Wonderful stories inside with follow up reading comprehension activities- good for literacy development
  • And the best part is- it has no adverts and no subtle use of language that encourage children to be materialistic. A lot of children’s magazines these days are full of subtle adverts, pictures of modern toys and children’s gadgets that make them go for certain brand or image (i.e images of Barbie or Hello Kitty etc). These magazines were issued in 1991-1992, two decade ago. (And one can certainly get the feeling of innocent childhood of that time)

After the addiction to magazines, we bought some of the original Animals of Farthing Wood story books. The series were written by Colin Dann in 1979. They were made into animated series by a number of European children’s production companies in 1990s. CDs, DVDs and eventually magazines came out. We have not had a chance to watch any of the animation series, just books and magazines. And both are highly recommended to all children between the ages of 4-8.

Love of reading

 

Bismillah,

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.

Eid ul Fitr 2012

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, we hosted the Eid party last Saturday (25 July 2012) for all those children who attended the Ramadan camp. We did some Ramadan and Eid related activities with the children, played  some party games (pass the parcel and pinyana- i am not sure if this is correct spelling lol) They received their Eid giftbags (with Islamic books, sticker sets and halal sweets etc). And of course we all shared a yummy meal. Alhamdulillah, a sister from Morocco did a reminder for all on maintaining the spirit of Ramadan, which I thought was really good. We displayed some of the things children made during the camp for revision with children but also for all moms to see.

 

We got both the girls some books for Eid and they received some gifts from some of their khalas. A friend gave them a two sets of stitching doll kits- two matrushka dolls (Russian) and two kokeshi dolls (Japanese). MashaAllah, they really enjoyed stitching and putting all the pieces together. And they gave away all to their friends except one. They love giving out gifts, especially 3 year old Safiyya.

This was one of the books Safiyya got this Eid. Easy to read, beautifully illustrated published by Islamic Foundation in the UK. I found some really good books by this publisher.

After reading the story, we decided to make a masjid cut and paste activity.

Safiyya’s masjid. She learned about mimbar, mihrab, minaret, dome and has labelled them.

 

She has also tried to write “I am going to the masjid” at the back of her paper.

 

Sumayya’s masjid craft work. Again, she has labelled all the masjid parts, drew a path from her house to the masjid and wrote “I am going to the masjid”

 This is one of the books Sumayya received on Eid and where she got the idea to make a gift for me for Eid ul Adha. Excellent story…

 

And they received an Eid gift from a dear sister here. They were so happy to receive the post. They won in the giveaway but we said to them they received it because they have tried to do lots of good deeds this Ramadan and mashaAllah did well with the help of Allah swt.

 

These are some other books we purchased sometime go. They are not necessarily Islamic but with stories with Muslim characters. Alhamdulillah, we had very fruitful discussions based on these stories and jazakAllah khayr to sister who recommended them to us. 

 

 

 

 

Ahamdulillah for another busy and beautiful week with so much going on. We had a talk on Islamic parenting with some sisters today and I am really going with semi-structured way of teaching things. InshaAllah, will share my thoughts and plans soon.

 

 

Living Books: Arabic story books

Bismillah,

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.