Assalamu Alaikum dear readers. It has been a long time since I had the time to write a new blog post and I truly apologize. I have however, been posting on my Facebook Fan Page, some tips and inspiration often. So if you are looking for more interaction with Muslimommy, head on over to www.facebook.com/Muslimommy and read my updates there (no FB account required)!
I mentioned on FB the other day that I would be posting a children’s book list soon, and many moms responded that they were excited for such a post, so I finally made some time to share one amazing book list that we use as a purchase guide for our children. In a later post, I will share more of our reading lists, Inshallah.
I feel that it is extremely important to instill in your children…
- The love of reading from a young age
- To have good books at their disposal
- To ensure that the content that they read is beneficial to their minds and hearts.
Alhamdulillah we have been collecting a library of good books for our children for many years, and have bookshelves lined with carefully chosen and wholesome literature for their benefit. We purchased some of our books in used, but very good condition, as this seemed more affordable, as well as less heart-sore if one of the kids ruined it by mistake. However, we do prefer our classical books to be from certain publishers (because of illustrations and print layout) and in hardcover format (because most are thick). As for some of our other books, especially from the list that I will share with you today, we purchased those according to availability and mostly for light reading.
Borrowing books from the library is another option, but was never a good option for us. I mean, between driving our kids there, scouting the author and title for each child in different sections of the library, carting a huge stack of books to be scanned one by one, all the while praying that no kid needs a bathroom break anytime soon, was just too unappealing for words. Not to mention making sure I remembered the books due date, finding the books to return it, and then driving the whole gang back to the library, only to realize we had overdue fees, AGAIN, were a few good reasons we gave up the trusty library altogether! It seemed less expensive and a lot wiser to buy our books online and line our own bookshelves instead. We also thought that once our kids were done reading the lot, we would pass it on to our children’s children one day, Inshallah, or one could resell it, so there is really no loss.
Instilling the love for books
I have heard many moms tell me that their kids do not like books or they struggle to make their kids read a book, so what should they do? I strongly believe that if you allow your children to watch a lot of TV, use the computer, tablet or phone often, your children will find reading boring. I mean how can a book compete with all those moving, colorful graphics! It is our responsibility as parents to limit screen time tremendously and give our kids BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS. I really understand that as parents we get exhausted and overwhelmed sometimes, so we give our kids these devices, hoping we can unwind and relax ( I am a culprit too), but they can be just as occupied with books once they cultivate the habit! In our home, we set a specific time and a certain limit on screen time, but more importantly, we are very particular about what they watch and if they earned their screen time, by completing their more important tasks first (reading being one of them).
I also know of parents who have totally eliminated media from their children’s lives, which may seem like the ideal for some, but after a certain age, that might not work anymore. I believe that as Muslims, we should always take the balanced approach, and as media has become a part of life, it is our duty as parents to teach our children the responsibility of using this media in a halal way and preventing it from taking time away from our Ibadah. This, will in turn, arm them for the future.
The Book List
What has helped us tremendously in guiding our children with quality books is an amazing reading list that was researched as suitable for Muslim kids in the West. The intention behind this list “…is to prepare a list of books that in some way further Islamic values, while containing no un-Islamic values”. This list was created by a dedicated Muslimah, Dr. Freda Shamma, who is a retired teacher, educator, curriculum writer, and founder of Foundation for Advancement and Development of Education and Learning (FADEL), that supports curriculum development in Islamic schools and who at present, is working on the completion of an Anthology of Muslim Literature. Dr Shamma writes that “…this is a list of well written children’s books commonly found in K-12 school libraries that has been reviewed and rated for Islamic content”.
Dr Shamma explains the criteria of the reading list on The Isla website, “There are many thousands of books aimed at young people, and thousands of them are appealing to children. In preparing this list of books that develops and/or reinforces Islamic values, we are not suggesting that children should not read any of the appealing ‘fluff,’ those books that entertain but don’t teach. We are suggesting that too many of these appealing books actually contain ideas that go against Islamic values, and teachers and parents need to be very selective as to which books they want to encourage their children to read.
In preparing this list, we have paid particular attention to several prominent, un-Islamic features and tried to select books that include the Islamic value. Therefore, we might not include a book that includes the value of helping others if it features someone who does this action with no family interaction. If the illustration shows a parent in the background, or the character speaks positively to a parent before going to help someone, then we consider that a good book to recommend. While it is not about family, it does include family”.
The book list by Dr Shamma was compiled on the basis that:
- Family is important. As discussed above
- Family is comprised of humans. Parallel to the idea that you don’t need family, is the idea that what you need instead is a pet, preferably a dog. Therefore, one should be careful of books in which many animals are featured as ‘family.’
- Best friends should be of the same gender. It is unsettling how many books written even for 4-5 year olds push the idea that one’s best friend should be of the opposite gender. Although there is certainly nothing wrong in young children playing with the opposite gender, there is no good going to come from stressing the boy-girl relationship continuously from age 4 to age 18.
- Witches and magic have a minor role. Although most Muslims will not object to occasional stories with witches and magic, as long as they are firmly placed in a fantasy world, one must be careful to minimize stories featuring them, particularly when they appear in otherwise normal settings.
- Working for the good of others is important. Although we cannot expect to find the Islamic idea that all work and all life should be done for the sake of Allah and for the good of humanity, we do need to look for stories that stress the benefit of working for the good of others. Too often the idea is put forth that people should do whatever feels good for them, i.e. be an artist because you have talent and want to paint, regardless what kind of artist you will become. (Courtesy: http://www.theisla.org/staticpages/index.php/ReadingListHowItWasCreated)
As you can see, this list was carefully scanned for our children’s benefit, and we are honored to find such dedicated people taking the time out of their busy lives, to provide us with this invaluable work. So it is with great pleasure, that I present this reading list on Muslimommy, for you to download and start a mini library for your kids, and knowing that what your children are reading, are quality, moral and wholesome books.
(Courtesy of http://www.theisla.org/staticpages/index.php/ReadingList)
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