Saturday, October 30, 2010

Storytime: Soup Day

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Today we read a delightful book called, 'Soup Day' by Melissa Iwai.

As the weather gets cooler, warm lunches and dinners make wonderful additions to the menu (especially soup). Soup Day takes children though the process of making soup. The little girl goes to the market to help select the needed vegetables, she helps cut them, and her mother adds all the spices they like. The illustrations serve to support and enhance the story as they are colourful and appealing.

The only part of the story that I chose to change was a part about hiding from a monster. If young children have no knowledge of this, I saw no reason to introduce what could potentially lead to a fear that was not there before *smile*.

I forgot to mention: there is even a nice recipe for vegetable soup at the end of the book. It sounds delicious!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Storytime: The Story of Muhammad (in Arabic)

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

This week, we have been enjoying The Story of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) written by Abu Ibraaheem. I especially like this book because the sentences are short enough that young toddlers can enjoy the story if it is read in parts. Alhamdulillah, the brother actually published the story in six parts on his site...barak Allahu feehe. Another feature that I like about this story is that is it in both Arabic and English. The search for good children's literature in Arabic has been....well...not very successful...alhamdulillah.

The story is not illustrated with pictures but I do not feel that this detracts from the story in any way. In fact, I find that the story of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) is such a stunning, powerful, and compelling story that illustrations do not need to enhance or support it. Masha'Allaah, the seerah is beautiful.

If you are not familiar with the website Arabic First or you have not been in a while, please do visit as there are many delightful resources that appeal to, and target, young toddlers and preschool aged children. And, all of the resources are free. Happy downloading! *smile*

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Read Aloud: Calming Fears, Creating Bonds

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

For some parents, naptime and/or bedtime can be a challenging time - every day. I was speaking with a parent the other day and this topic opened somehow and I began to think about this. I wondered if the sound of the parents voice would calm the child as he/she lay waiting for sleep. That is when I had an idea.

Many parents do it and it is a fantastic literacy extension and a great way to deepen a child's love of being read aloud to. Choose some of your child's favourite suwar (pl. of surah), ahadith, stories of anbiya', etc. and record yourself (or a loved one whom your child is familiar with) reading them aloud. Burn them onto a cd and put this CD on at naptime or bedtime.

Perhaps some of the fears of bedtime - the dark, the noises that are now unfamiliar because the source of the noise cannot be seen, etc. - may be soothed by the beauty of the Quran and the sound of a parents voice...waallaahu alim. I use this same concept in my classroom although not for that reason.

In my classroom, as in many many classrooms, students have access to the listening centre. Here they are invited to listen to stories read aloud. I love to see students sitting nestled in bean bags, among pillows, or among friends, completely engaged in the story being narrated to them. It was when I was watching them that I became profoundly aware of the impact that literacy has on children. They retain so much of the story, so much so that they mimic the characters speech and behaviours. Here again, I saw the importance of screening the books that enter my classroom but I also saw just how absorbed the children become while listening to a story being read aloud.

Even as we sit together on our carpet and I read aloud to my students, I am keenly aware of the complete silence, the lack of movement on the part of the students, the upturned faces, alight with anticipation, and then as the story unfolds and meanders along, I see the students eyes. They are glossy and smiling and most of all, they reflect contentment. Subhana'Allaah, the power of reading aloud.

This is a profound experience that all parents should take advantage of insha'Allaah. It may not always be possible to sit with your child(ren) and read a book whenever they wish, however, you can utilize the computer, or a CD player and still give them the gift of literacy wrapped in the beauty of your voice. Of course, I do not believe that the recorded voice can ever replace the immeasurable pleasure derived from a parent sitting with a child and reading to him/her. This is an experience that is indescribable subhana'Allaah, so I always advocate this method above all others. But if time is short or many tasks compete for your attention, this is a wonderful alternative.

Shaykh Al-Uthaimeen (rahimahullah) used to do such things for his children. In an interview his wife related, "that the Shaykh (rahimahullah) used to record some short recitations and nasheed for his children and sometimes in the presence of one of the neighbors' kids. He then would re-play the cassette to them during some meeting with them at older ages."

Reading aloud, in its varied formats, is a gift that is precious, free and irreplaceable. Now the only question left to ask is, "Which stories will you record for your children insha'Allaah?"

May Allaah allow you to choose well, read well and enjoy the experience (and your children too).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Literacy Checklist - Check it out!

Assalamu alaikum,

The other day, sis Saraa from UmmahReads posted a link to an outstanding literacy checklist....jazakillahu khayr dear sis! It's been on my mind to mention her post here since that day but finding the time...alhamdulillah.

If you have not already visited her blog and read (and downloaded) this checklist, please do. These are some of the standards that teachers are asked and trained to meet. At various workshops, teachers are taught strategies to help them make lifelong readers of their students insha'Allaah. Using this checklist, I believe parents can easily adopt these points at home insha'Allaah and help their children learn to love the printed word.

Read sis Saraa's post here insha'Allaah!

Jazakillahu Khayr once again dear sis Saraa!

**I forgot to mention, of course, please omit any parts that suggest the use of music or anything that contridicts the Shari'ah. Barak Allaahu feekum!**

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Homemade Books: An easy way to build a home library

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

I love books! I love to read them, write them, and...I really enjoy making handmade/homemade books. Using paper bags, cardboard, scrap fabric, felt, or many other types of recycled materials, I like to make a book that, while not library binding quality *smile*, are done with care and thoughtfulness.

This is one thing that children in my classes enjoy doing as well. Given the right materials and encouragement, children can design beautiful handmade books that can be read again and again insha'Allaah. This is also a great way to build your child's home library insha'Allaah. By the end of a school year, children can have an entire collection of books that parents can feel safe letting their children read because the contents are completely up to you: the parent or teacher. This is an easy way to design beautiful, personal books that teach your children Islamic concepts.

Do you make handmade books?

Here are a few blogs to help you get started if you don't or would like to start, or would like to add to your current collection insha'Allaah:

Making Shape Books (I just googled and found this!)

Let's Book It (Just found this one too...some unislamic things so please skip those)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Storytime: Who's At Home?

Assalamu aliakum,

On Friday we read a delightful lift the flap guessing book by Nancy Davis called Who's At Home?

From the publisher:

Woodland animals play a guessing game with the little ones in this interactive board book! Each spread poses a riddle to young readers: "Who's at home?" Children will love lifting the flaps to reveal a furry bear, a wide-eyed owl, a cheery squirrel, a dozing beaver, and a cuddly rabbit all snuggled up in their homes.

This book is written for children 2-4 years old but I'd venture to say that infants much younger might enjoy the hide-and-seek aspect of the book...waallaahu alim.

You can download a cute matching activity worksheet from the Simon and Schuster website that compliments the story here insha'Allaah.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thoughts on Muslim Homeschoolers Curricula

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Masha'Allah, as the new school year has started some sisters have kindly posted their long range plans/curricula. I have enjoyed reading sis Umm Maimoonah's and sis Umm Sara's (those are the only two I've read from Muslim sisters but I'd love to read more insha'Allaah).

As I read the two curricula I mentioned, I wondered if other Muslim homeschooling mothers have posted theirs for others to benefit from. I also wondered if their exists a forum for Muslim homeschoolers to come together and share ideas and support one another. Today's Tomorrow has a forum but, curiously, it appears to be inactive...I wonder why? Where do Muslim homeschooling parents go for support/help?

This year has certainly been a learning experience for me. I have come to have great respect for homeschooling parents. In the past, it was not that I had no respect for them *smile* it was that I was not aware of the expansive world of homeschooling and the talent of these dedicated parents. Recently, I even declared that I think homeschooling just might be more work than teaching in a Teachers have a plethora of pre-prepared materials to select from and we have a pre-written curriculum to follow. We also get great goodies at professional development workshops alhamdulillah. I notice that homeschooling parents design much (if not all) of their material and it's so wonderful masha'Allah! Imagine the reward with Allaah!

Please continue to share what you do so that others may benefit and learn from you and may Allaah reward you!