Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Storytime: My Big Girl Potty

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read, My Big Girl Potty by Maxie Chambliss

This is a nice story about a little girl learning to use the potty instead of relying on her diapers. It focuses on ease and no pressure in this process. It also helps children understand that accidents will happen during this period and that this is okay and very normal.

I think I've read the companion book for boys but as I recall it is not okay as there is a picture that shows an inappropriate amount of the boy’s anatomy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Storytime: The Little Dump Truck

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read The Little Dump Truck by Margery Cuyler

In the Little Dump Truck, children are taken along to experience the encounters of a little dump truck as he makes his way through the city doing his job. There are many great rare words in this book that will help increase a child's vocabulary such as: clatter, excavator, carting, and landfill.

Rare words are words that are not used in common everyday language and exposing children to them through read alouds is a great way to build strong vocabularies early insha'Allah.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Storytime: At the Edge of the Woods

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read, At the Edge of the Woods by Cynthia Cotten

This, I thought, is a cut rhyming book but so far each time I try to read it, the book is closed and it is very clear that there is no interest in hearing it. Subhana'Allah, suprising to me since the story is nice and it flows so well but alhamdulillah, each child has different tastes.  Well, I enjoy the story but for toddlers I don't think that counts as much as them enjoying the

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Storytime: Gardening: I Can Do It!

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read the World Book Encyclopedia: Gardening - I Can Do It! by Ivan Bulloch

This colourful, wonderfully organized book has simple text that teaches without being dense and dry.

I've begun introducing non-fiction because along with indirect teaching, non-fiction exposes children to rare words and broadens their knowledge of Allah's creation. Providing children with a print-rich environment that includes non-fiction helps children discover interests beyond their physical boundaries. Perhaps you don't live where wild animals are seen every day but non-fiction books can help children become aware of individuals who care for and work to protect wild animals. Perhaps you live in a certain part of the world that has an abundance of resources; non-fiction can introduce your child to children who live in countries where resources are restricted. Through these texts, we can help our children develop empathy, compassion and a desire to help others for the sake of Allah. Non-fiction is not just a medium for conveying facts; it is a passport to view the ayaat of Allah.

Ages: 6-9

Friday, June 25, 2010

Storytime: Surah Al-Kahf

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read Surah Al-Kahf

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا ۜ

قَيِّمًا لِّيُنذِرَ بَأْسًا شَدِيدًا مِّن لَّدُنْهُ وَيُبَشِّرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ الصَّالِحَاتِ أَنَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا حَسَنًا

مَّاكِثِينَ فِيهِ أَبَدًا

وَيُنذِرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا

مَّا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ وَلَا لِآبَائِهِمْ ۚ كَبُرَتْ كَلِمَةً تَخْرُجُ مِنْ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ ۚ إِن يَقُولُونَ إِلَّا كَذِبًا

فَلَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفْسَكَ عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمْ إِن لَّمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَـٰذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَسَفًا

إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا مَا عَلَى الْأَرْضِ زِينَةً لَّهَا لِنَبْلُوَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا

وَإِنَّا لَجَاعِلُونَ مَا عَلَيْهَا صَعِيدًا جُرُزًا

أَمْ حَسِبْتَ أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْكَهْفِ وَالرَّقِيمِ كَانُوا مِنْ آيَاتِنَا عَجَبًا

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا

{Surah al-Kahf, ayaat 1-10}

Insha'Allah, we'll keep reading this surah each week on Yaumul Jummah (Friday), starting from where we left off the previous week. I'm looking forward to reaching the story of the boys in the cave insha'Allah. There I hope to stop and mention some of the lessons to be taken from this story as outlined by the ulema alhamdulillah.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What I'm Reading Right Now: Montessori Read and Write

Assalamu alaikum,

I have been reading this book, Montessori Read and Write: A Parents' Guide to Literacy for Children, and have been enjoying it.

There are some things that I do not use from the Montessori Method when I teach reading. I primarily use the Guided Reading method and when needed, I provide support for a student using some aspects of Montessori education.

Among the aspects from this book that I like are:

  • Identifies the times your child's windows of opportunity are open. Windows of opportunity are called sensitive periods in Montessori education. Simply put, these are the times when your child's brain is most ready and able to refine certain characteristics such as language learning, motor skill development, etc. It is believed that when these "windows" close, it is more challenging for a child to master them or that aside from experiencing difficulty, some children may never completely master a particular characteristic if he/she is not exposed to these characteristics during these "windows" and waallahu alim.
  • Timelines are provided that show you when these sensitive periods occur.
  • Activities are provided that you as a parent can do at home to help your child successfully develop and master each characteristic insha'Allah.
  • Defines the steps that should be taken when teaching a child to read and write. Also describes how the steps should be taught.
As a guide for parents, this book is easy to understand, concise and full of helpful advice to help your child get off to a good start learning to read and write.

Storytime: Dig, Dig, Digging

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read, Dig, Dig, Digging by Margaret Mayo

This is a delightful rhyme and a bit of a tongue twister so you may have to read this to yourself before you read it aloud to your child(ren). In Dig, Dig, Digging, children are shown different types of heavy machines and through playful verse, they are taught what each machine does and what it is used for. A fun story that I think we will be adding to our personal library insha'Allah.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Storytime: In My Backyard

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read, In My Backyard by Margriet Ruurs.

This book is a celebration of animals that are commonly found in backyards. It's also a hide and seek book because the animal that is to appear on the next page is hidden in the illustration on the previous page - see if you can find them insha'Allah. I still can't find the paper wasp!

The illustrations are unique and creative. The illustrator uses paper-sculpting to illuminate the story. I appreciate the subtle details in each illustration. There is much to look at and discover. There are many opportunities to ask the child questions as you read this book, such as, "Can you find the ______?" "I see the _____, do you see it to? Can you point to it insha'Allah?" This is an excellent way to build vocabulary for our children insha'Allah. Exposing them to rare words (words that are not used commonly in every day language) helps children become better readers insha'Allah.

This book is one that children two years and older might enjoy insha'Allah especially as many of the animals in the book are making an appearance now that it is warmer alhamdulillah.

What I'm Reading Right Now

Assalamu alaikum,

I placed a request for this book over six months ago.

Alhamdulillah, it arrived over the weekend and I dove right in. I am a teacher who follows (not strictly) the Montessori method of educating children, however, I am not closed to the insights and practices of other schools of thought. I'm curious to see what Classical Education has to offer, how it is structured and the idea behind it. It appears to be geared toward homeschooling parents and since I am a strong supporter of homeschooling, I hope to continue learning about education at home insha'Allah.

With 782 pages (not including the index), I think I'll be between the pages of this book for some time but I hope I won't be disappointed. So far..hmm...I've skipped over the shirk and mythology references. I get so disheartened sometimes that Muslims have not authored key works addressing the topic of educating children - it's so important subhana'Allah. Or have they? Maybe these books by Muslim authors are out there and I just haven't come across them yet. Is that the case?

When I've read more insha'Allah, I'll come back and tell you more about the book. But perhaps you've read this book? If so, I'd like to know what you thought of it and if you use the Classical Education model in your homeschool.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Storytime: Chicken Said Cluck!

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read, and read, and read (smile) Chicken Said Cluck! by Judyann A. Grant:

Well this book was certainly enjoyed alhamdulillah. I used this story/book as a way to reinforce previous discussions about akhlaq and how Muslims should treat other people and animals.

In the story, a little boy and girl decide to grow pumpkins but Chicken keeps getting in the way by scratching the dirt where the children are working and planting. Annoyed with Chicken's behaviour, the children keep telling Chicken to "shoo". In the end, after Allah, it is the chicken who helps save the garden.

During the read aloud I asked if the way the children were treating Chicken was very nice. I mentioned that the children learned an important lesson: the one you think is of no use to you can actually turn out to be of great benefit to you. We also talked about how Allah has enjoined upon Muslims to be kind (to humans and animals) and we talked about alternate behaviours that the children in the story could have shown.

The "shoo-ing" and "cluck-ing" sounds made this book enjoyable for the very young alhamdulillah and I was asked to read it several times which I gladly did. Repetition helps build vocabulary and fluency insha'Allah.

Ages: 3-5

DEAR time (Drop Eveything and Read) at Home

Assalamu alaikum,

You've probably heard of D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read). Perhaps your school uses another name such as SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) or SQUIRT (Sustained Quiet Uninterrupted Reading time). Whatever you'd like to call it, this is an important activity that can easily be implemented every day in your home insha'Allah.

D.E.A.R. time is not meant to replace quality literacy instruction; rather it acts as a partner to literacy instruction. This is also not a time where children get 10 - 30 minutes to "pretend" they are reading a book but are really off somewhere in their imagination and the words on the page have long sense failed to be recognized by their eyes.

D.E.A.R, SSR, SQUIRT and the other programs like them provide children with the relative freedom to choose books that interest them and really get lost between the pages of the book. As Muslim parents and teachers, our job is to carefully screen the books that our children can select from insha'Allah. This cannot be done by reading the little blurb on the back of the book or on the inside of the jacket cover. If I could only tell you how many books I've picked up, taken home to screen, gotten almost to the last chapter and aaggh! There is something completely inappropriate for our children to be exposed to. We have to read every chapter, every page, and every word because our children are worth it.  

Once that is done, the question(s) may arise, "How do I implement this program at home successfully" and/or "How old does my child have to be before I can begin giving him/her D.E.A.R. time?" The answer to the last question is simple: D.E.A.R. time can be done from the day your child is born. All you have to do is: five minutes a day, drop everything (not literally of course) and read to your baby. It's that simple. Five minutes. Now, if you're like any normal new mother, sleep deprivation may dictate that five minutes a day is really some insane idea that you don't have any intention of trying, especially when that can very well mean five more minutes on the pillow. Fair enough. Enlist father, grandmother, grandfather, nieces and nephews to read to baby as he/she lies in his/her crib. Pick a time when your baby is alert and make that your D.E.A.R time insha'Allah.

As your child gets older, you'll probably notice that his/her attention span is considerably strong for such a small person and this is a good thing. When children are read to from a young age, they learn to sit, focus and enjoy a story being read aloud. So you may start out reading for five minutes a day and increase to ten minutes by the time your child is two years old.

So, what do you have to do to start D.E.A.R time in your home? Read on because it's surprisingly simple alhamdulillah.

  1. Start building a home library for your child. If you don't have the means to buy books, your local library is a free resource. If you live in a country where public libraries don't exist (subhana'Allah, can that really be true?!) and shipping from the internet is prohibitively expensive, write stories for your child and read them together insha'Allah. 
  2. Create a reading space in your home that is inviting and child size. Bean bags work great for this and I've even seen small foam and fabric sofas and chairs for children.  Decorate the space and make it inviting. Place an area rug on the floor, a nice bookshelf - preferably where the book covers face out instead of the spine, an attractive reading lamp, even a CD player with headphones where your child can listen to books being read aloud by you or other family members insha'Allah. Place a beautiful thriving plant in the area and do whatever you can to ensure that this space is not located in a high traffic area of the house that is polluted with noise and distractions.
  3. Try to make your D.E.A.R. time occur at or around the same time each day insha'Allah. Whatever time you decide, make sure D.E.A.R. time starts that same time each and every day insha'Allah. This consistency is important.
  4. Provide your child with books from a variety of genres to select from. Have fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
  5. Make sure the books that are available for your child to choose from are those that he/she can read 90% of the text independently and can comprehend about 70% of the text without help insha'Allah.
  6. Invite (but don't force) your child to keep a journal to write about the books they've read. Encourage your child to share with you and other family members the books they've read by re-telling the story.
  7. You can also put up a bulletin board where you child can display his/her drawings or book reports to tell about the books he/she has read and enjoyed insha'Allah.
  8. Be a role model: read in front of, with and to your child each day insha'Allah.
Happy reading!

Photo Credit: Bean bag creative commons CraZeeCrafteeZ

Monday, June 21, 2010

Storytime: Big Machines

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read, Big Machines by Melanie Davis Jones

This story is about big machines that we often see on the side of roads, in ditches, fields or parked solemnly along the side of the road at night waiting for the next work day. The story has short sentences and it rhymes so Big Machines, although intended for children who are beginning to read independently, can be read to infants and toddlers. Infants and toddlers pick up on rhyme very easily and enjoy it so this little book fits right insha'Allah. The illustrations are done in clay. I like this type of illustrating as it is unique and eye-catching.

Have you read?

Assalamu aliakum,
A student brought this book to class one day but I can't remember the story:

I was thinking this might be a good pick for Together We Read in July insha'Allah. Have you read this book? If so, can you tell me about the story insha'Allah? Jazakum Allahu Khayran!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Storytime: Kittens First Full Moon and Where Is That Cat

Assalamu alaikum,

Today we read Kitten's First Full Moon by Keven Henkes:

A cute story about a kitten who, when she sees a full moon - the first she's ever seen - thinks it's a bowl of milk in the sky. She sets out to get the bowl of milk in the sky and runs into a bit of difficulty. I generally do not read aloud books by Kevin Henkes because I believe that children need to be firmly grounded in reality prior to be introduced to fantasy - a Montessori concept - (i.e. children need to firmly understand that rats don't speak English or any human language of any sort that we are aware). With this book, like almost all books I read aloud, I add "insha'Allah", "subhana'Allah" and masha'Allah", etc. whenever appropriate.

We also read, Where Is That Cat by Carol Greene

I think the illustrations in this book are just beautiful. This is another sweet story. This one is about an old woman who finds a stray cat when she goes out to check her mail. She intends to find the cat a home but the cat is determined that her home should be his new home and sets out to make it so. I changed the main character's name to sister Ruqaya and we enjoyed the story after each re-read.

When you're picking children's picture books to read aloud what is it that makes you pick the book? Is it the book cover, the illustrations inside, the topic, or the author? Or something else?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Welcome Post

Assalamu aliakum,

I started this blog as a place to share my love of teaching and reading insha'Allah. Not only would I like to share what I read, I'd like to share information about books, literacy, lesson planning, and education in general insha'Allah.

Each day, I'd like to post the book(s) we've read and enjoyed because with the plethora of children's books that exists, it is not always easy to know or take the time to sift through hundreds of books to see which are Islamically appropriate. But, this is an important step that I hope all parents and teachers dedicate some of their time to. I hope to help whomever I can in this process insha'Allah by sharing some of the books I have found that are insha'Allah, Islamically appropriate.

Whenever possible I will try to share Islamic fiction books but as this is an area that is still in progress in the Muslim Publishing industry, I regret to say that the number of non-Muslim kids book will far outnumber the Islamic ones. Insha'Allah, this will not be an enduring trend.

Literacy is a passion of mine walhamdulillah and as I continue to learn and implement strategies that work, I want to pass those strategies along insha'Allah.

If you're reading and/or following this blog, there is a high chance that you too share a love of the written word and strive to pass this love on to your child(ren). Although the bulk of my posts may veer off in the direction of children's literacy (for children ages birth to six), I would also like to share books that are on my bookshelf or that occupy a comfy space in my book bin.

I've even pondered the idea of sharing some of my own personal thoughts and dialoging with other Muslim sisters who teach (and I believe that parents fit right into the definition of teacher so be not afraid - join in insha'Allah), those who homeschool and those who 'after-school'.

As with my other blog, A Muslim Child is Born, this blog is dedicated to Allah and Him only. I do it seeking His Noble Face and I hope that He accepts it from me.