Thursday, December 29, 2011

RTL: If You Lived Here: Houses of the World

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
Book Title: If You Lived Here: Houses of the World
Author: Giles Laroche
Islamically Appropriate?: Yes
Genre: Fiction
Book Format: Picture Book
Age Group: 6 and up
Book Review: From "Step into unique homes from around the world and discover the many fascinating ways in which people live and have lived.

If you lived in the mountains of southern Spain, your bedroom might be carved out of a mountain. If you lived in a village in South Africa, the outside of your house might tell the story of your family. And if you lived in a floating green house in the Netherlands, you could rotate your house to watch both the sunrise and sunset.

With intricate bas-relief collages, Giles Laroche uncovers the reason why each home was constructed the way in which it was, then lets us imagine what it would be like to live in homes so different from our own.

Showing the tremendous variety of dwellings worldwide—log cabins, houses on stilts, cave dwellings, boathouses, and yurts—this book addresses why each house is build the way that it is. Reasons—such as blending into the landscape, confusing invaders, being able to travel with one's home, using whatever materials are at hand—are as varied as the homes themselves."

You may wish to build upon this book to include homes from Muslim countries as well.

Until the next read insha'Allaah....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Storytime: Help Me!

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

After the break from school, you may wish to consider this picture book for storytime

Help Me! by Paul Geraghty is a very nice realistic fiction story about what we may consider to be unusual acts of kindness in the animal kingdom: a crocodile (or was it an alligator?) saving a baby turtle (instead of eating it), a hippopotamus helping to save an impala from a pack of wild dogs, etc. The story's impact comes from the fact that, according to the author, these stories are based on true tales of animal kindness.

A teacher/parent may see this book as a way to support a unit on empathy and kindness. During or after the reading, teachers/parents can ask questions such as:

1). What do you think the elephant is going to do? (during reading)
2). What do you think is going to happen to the baby turtle? (during reading)

The previous two questions help students build their predicting skills. Once they have given their ideas, note them on chart paper or on the board and then turn the page and tell the class "let's read to find out what will happen insha'Allaah". Turn and read the page to see if students predictions were correct.

You can also ask:

3). What reason do you think the pack of wild dogs did not attack the hippopotamus? (after reading)
4). How do you think the hippopotamus putting his mouth around the impala helps it to heal and get better insha'Allaah? (after reading)

These type of questions help students strengthen their ability to form hypothesis. If you choose to, you can lead the class on a research journey to help them discover what a hippopotamus putting its mouth around the impala does for the impala. Or you can do a bit of research (with your class) about other known incidents of elephants helping other creatures. You can also (most important) help students draw parallels to what they read to any examples in the Quraan or Sunnah (if possible). For example, the elephant does not smash the turtle but instead turns it over so that it can move again freely and not get crushed. Ask students, do you know of any story in the Quraan or from the many ahadith where a small creature was about to be crushed by a larger one (Sulaiman and the ants) or a larger creature helped a smaller one? (the man or woman helps the thirsty dog by taking off his/her shoe and getting water from a well for it).

This book can support a classroom unit study on kindness and how Allaah is the Most Kind and how He loves that we show kindness toward others and help others (including animals). You can ask students to brainstorm some of the ways that Allaah is Kind to His Creation and led them to the understanding that we can never count the many, many ways that Allaah is Kind to us and how we must be thankful for His Kindness. You can also bring examples of the Prophet -sallallaahu alayhi wa salam- and the many examples of his kindness toward people and animals. To conclude, you can ask students to talk about ways they can be kind and help them (if needed) form concrete examples that are within their ability to do insha'Allaah. You can then help them come up with ways to implement their ideas insha'Allaah (i.e. helping father wash the car, helping younger sibling with homework, etc.).

What ways might you use this book in your home/classroom when teaching about kindness?

Monday, December 26, 2011

RTL: Can You See What I See? : Treasure Ship

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Book TitleCan You See What I See?: Treasure Ship: Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve
Author: Walter Wick
Islamically Appropriate?: Yes
Genre: Fiction
Book Format: Picture Book
Age Group: K-3
Book Review: From Booklist: In the latest entry in Wick’s Can You See What I See? series, the dramatic subject is shipwrecks: what is buried under the sea, what washes up onto coastal shores. The rhyming, find-and-seek games will entice kids to look for the minute details in each packed spread. The search is not always easy, which will stretch out the enjoyment as kids pore over each page. Even the cover hides some surprises, like a hidden pirate skull and a cannonball. Another winning installment in the popular series. Grades K-3.

There are other books in this series, some of which are not Islaamically appropriate but I would like to check out others that (from their title and cover) seem to suggest that they may be Islaamically appropriate insha'Allaah.

Until the next read insha'Allaah....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

RTL: Counting Chickens

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Book Title: Counting Chickens
Author: Flensted
Islamically Appropriate?: Yes
Genre: Non-Fiction
Book Format: Picture Book
Age Group: 4-6
Book Review: The mobiles in this book are charming and the author shows how counting can be easily done using the simple designs in each mobile. Each page asks children to find and count certain objects that are found in each mobile presented. There is also a challenge question that encourages the child to think a bit harder *smile*.

There is one page that seems to be related to Halloween so this page should be skipped.
The mobiles in this book may give teachers/parents fun ideas for mobiles they can make with/for their children and how they can use them in math related activities...waallaahu a'lam.

Until the next read insha'Allaah....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Storytime: What's Up Duck?

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

The book for storytime today is

What's Up, Duck?: A Book of Opposites by Tad Hills is a book that teachers and parents of infants and toddlers may wish to consider purchasing for their student's/child's school/home library. The two characters, Duck and Goose, are in a word, adorable! Duck and Goose help teach children nine pairs of opposite words like: near/far; heavy/light; dirty/clean and so on. The concept of opposites books is not new but the illustrations are what make this book stand apart from its companions on the library shelf.

Teachers who work with very young children may find that this book easily lends itself to be the book for a storytime session that supports an opposites theme that may be coming up in the classroom or currently in progress.

And the title? That alone may engage student interest right away....waallaahu a'lam.

What's Up, Duck?: A Book of Opposites (Duck & Goose): A book teachers may definitely wish to add to the classroom library (perhaps more than one copy would be a good idea if your class is large).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

RTL: A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee

  السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Book Title: A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee
Author: Chris Van Dusen
Islamically Appropriate?: No
Genre: Fiction
Book Format: Picture Book
Age Group: 4-8
Book Review: Mr. Magee decides to take his little dog on a camping trip. He tells his dog about the wonderful adventures to be had while camping but their trip goes suddenly array when a near-sighted (and far-sighted) bear smells the marshmallows they cooked over the fire before going to bed. In its attempt to get to the nice smell, the bear accidentally unhitches the camping trailer from the car, sending both rolling down the hill in opposite directions. The trailer (in which Mr. Magee and his dog are sleeping) ends up falling into the water and is prevented from going over the edge of a waterfall by a large rock. The same bear with poor eye sight unintentionally ends up fishing Mr. Magee and his dog out of the water. 

The story is long and it rhymes (the entire story) so this is definitely a story for older children. The illustrations are attractive and the story is funny. The aspects of the story I am unsure about are the dog and a reference to some presidents of the States. For these reasons, I have rated the book as Inappropriate for Muslim children...waallaahu a'lam.

Until the next read insha'Allaah....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

RTL: Forest

  السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Book Title: Forest
Author: Laura Goodwin
Islamically Appropriate?: PD (Parent Decision)
Genre: Fiction
Book Format: Beginning Chapter Book
Age Group: 4-8
Book Review: This is a beginning chapter book for students who are becoming or already are independent readers. The text level supports independent reading at this age and provides enough new, slightly challenging words so that the reader does not become bored and can also feel a sense of advancing in their ability as a reader. 

In this story, a little girl and her mother find a baby fawn in the forest near their farm. They hear the baby fawn call for its mother throughout the day. When nightfall comes and the mother deer has not returned for her fawn, the family decides to go back to the forest to care for the baby fawn overnight so it will no die. The little girl wants to keep the baby fawn as a pet but the father tells the girl that a wild animal is not theirs to keep and that tomorrow they will call a facility that cares for wild animals.

In a few places in the text the sound the animals makes as it calls for its mother is written in as part of the story. As Ibn Taymiyyah said it is not that humans should imitate the sound of animals (still unable to find that reference in English unfortunately), perhaps children can be asked not to read those lines of text or if you own the book, you can use a marker to colour over the words. 

The last chapter is the reason this book has been given the rating of PD (parent decision). The little girl asks if she can stay up to help feed the fawn throughout the night with her parents and they tell her no (the parents intend to take turns getting up throughout the night to bottle feed the fawn). They tell her to go to bed, which she does, but the reader soon learns that the little girl intentionally lays awake in bed waiting until her parents go to sleep and then she sneaks back downstairs to talk with the fawn and ends up falling asleep next to it.

Might this aide in teaching children to disobey their parents when Allaah has said that we are to be good and dutiful to our parents?

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حُسْنًا
And We have enjoined on man to be good and dutiful to his parents...
{Surah Al-Ankaboot (29): 8}

 Until the next read insha'Allaah....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

RTL: The Grea Night Journey

  السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Book Title: The Great Night Journey and Other Stories  
Author: Anita Ganeri
Islamically Appropriate?: No
Genre: Fiction
Book Format: Picture Book
Age Group: 2-8
Book Review: This book has four stories from Islaam that have been written with language that makes the stories accessible to young children. As the title indicates, the story of the Prophet's (sallaallaahu alayhi wa salam) Isra wa mi'raj (night journey) is one of the four stories included. The other stories include: the first revelation the Prophet (sallaallaahu alayhi wa salam) received, the Prophet's Hijrah to al-Madina and the story of Ibrahim (alayhi salam) and Hajr (when he took her to Makkah and left she and Isma'il there). 

There are a few areas where the text and/or pictures make this book questionable: In the story of the revelation of the Quraan to the Prophet (salllaallaahu alayhi wa salam), the author says that Jibril (alayhi salam) was holding a piece of cloth on which was covered in writing and he commanded the Prophet (salllallaahu alayhi wa salam) to read it. Is this authentic? 

Also, in the story of al-Isra wal Mi'raj, the wording the author used when mentioning how Musa (alayhi salam) told the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa salam) to go back to Allaah and request a reduction in the number of daily salawaat, seems not to convey the correct manners that the Prophets have with Allaah. The wording is thus: "Musa told Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wa salam) that fifty prayers was too many prayers for people to say every day." Worded this way (and the subsequent outcome of the story - the prayers being reduced), it gives the appearance that Musa had a better idea or knew better than Allaah (astagfirullaah). Allaahu a'lam...

Additionally, the hadith that the author relied on to tell the story of when the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa salam) and Abu Bakr (radiallaahu anhu) hid in the cave is, to my limited knowledge, weak. If you were to read this book aloud you could change these things but if you allow a child who can read to simply read the book himself/herself then he/she would read these inaccuracies. 

There is also one picture in the story of al-Isra wal-mi'raj that shows a ladder going up into the clouds. The text says that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa salam) ascended to the heavens on البُراق al-buraq but this illustration seems to contradict the text. We do not want children to think that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa salam) climbed a ladder to ascend to the heavens on his night journey. 

Originally, the rating on this book was undecided but after typing this, I believe that it may be safer to rate the book as not Islamically appropriate due to the aforementioned errors. One of our primary goals is to impart the religion to our children correctly and while this book is beautifully illustrated and the written in language that makes it accessible to young children, the errors are of a nature that cannot easily be rectified.

As an aside: this book was authored by a woman whom, it appears, is not Muslim...waallaahu a'lam. She has retained the overall accuracy of each story and has done so in a respectful manner. May Allaah guide her to Islaam (if she is not already Muslim). It appears that she has also done research about Islaam and has respected and adhered to the prohibition of using facial features, in fact there is not a single human being or animal in the entire book alhamdulillaah! The illustrations are beautiful and attractive so that children will enjoy them insha'Allaah. May Allaah guide us to follow His Shari'a and the Sunnah of His Last Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa salam) and produce beautiful, Islamically accurate children's books without the use of facial features on humans and/or animals.

 Until the next read insha'Allaah....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Motion, Magnets and More

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Sharing a nice science resource book for parents.


This book is an introduction to the Physical Sciences for children ages 4-7. The explanations are simple, brief, straightforward and written to allow children to comprehend each lesson with ease insha'Allaah. Some of the illustrations are not Islamically appropriate therefore this book would be a nice resource for teachers and/or parents to use when looking for simple wording to help explain a scientific concept related to motion, magnets, volume, mass, etc. Some of the experiments are also inappropriate as they call for using food in a wasteful manner. If you are looking for a science resource book to help you (lesson planning, easily worded explanation of certain concepts) when teaching science, this book may be quite helpful.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Storytime: أنا ورقة نبات (I am the plant leaf)

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

The book for storytime today is

أنا ورقة نبات

 (I am the plant leaf)

شرح علمي مبسط ومسل للأطفال عن أوراق النبات ومراحلها وأهميتها تحكيه ورقة بلسانها.

This story explains to children the importance of the leaves of plants, what they do for trees, and how their work changes based on the seasons and the cycles they go through. Aside from being read aloud, this book is one that can be recorded and placed in your science centre for children to listen to when you are teaching certain themes (i.e. season, plants, etc.) as the book has taken the scientific explanation and simplified it for children very well masha'Allaah. Arabic Only.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Storytime: Shapes in Transportation

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

The book for storytime today is

While recommended for children ages 4-8, younger children (ages 2-3) can also enjoy exploring Shapes in Transportation with an adult or independently. This non-fiction book invites children to notice the shapes that are found in transportation;vehicles they most likely see every day but may not realize that the various shapes can be found in many types of transportation. Children are directed to a bridge, where they will find not only triangles, but a trapezoid as well. Their attention is also drawn to trains whose boxcars are rectangle but some, which carry liquids, are cylinders. 

This book can be enjoyed by children who are currently exploring the transportation theme and may be a nice book to use when incorporating cross curricular activities in the classroom (this book supporting the math strand). Some other examples for the transportation theme can be seen here, here (incorporating shapes) and here insha'Allaah. 

There are several other books in the Math all Around Series that I hope to explore soon and I am hoping that, Insha'Allaah, the content of the other books is Islamically appropriate. There other books in the series are:

  1. Numbers On The Street
  2. Graphing in the Desert
  3. Patterns in Nature
  4. Sorting at the Ocean
  5. Addition in the Forest
  6. Measuring at Home
  7. Money at the Store
  8. Multiplication on the Farm 
  9. Division with Toys

There is also Holiday Fractions but this book is not Islamically appropriate (this is evident from the book cover). Check back and insha'Allaah, the other nine books will appear here soon with a note on the content (whether or not it is Islamically appropriate or not).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

RTL: Fly Away Home

  السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Book Title: Fly Away Home
Author: Eve Bunting
Islamically Appropriate?: Yes
Genre: Fiction
Book Format: Picture Book
Age Group: 5-8
Book Review: This is a story that deals with a sensitive topic: homelessness. The author tells the story of a little boy whose mother passed away and somehow (we are not told how in the story), the little boy and his father have ended up homeless. The story is told in the little boy's voice and he tells of how he and his father live in the airport, how they avoid security and how they keep clean, etc. The little boy is almost at the age where he will be starting school and his father has told him that they will find a way to make sure he does not miss this. Toward the end of the story, the little boy sees a little bird that has flown into the airport and become trapped. The little boy watches the bird intently as it tries to escape and...I'll let you read for yourself insha'Allaah *smile*. This story may be one that can be read aloud when teaching empathy or to support a unit on sadaqa, zakat, the sahaba, helping others, or compassion. It touches on a delicate subject but does so very well. Grade 3 teachers/parents may find this lesson plan, that uses this book, helpful...waallaahu a'lam.

 Until the next read insha'Allaah....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

RTL: All By Myself!

  السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Book Title: All By Myself!
Author: Aliki
Islamically Appropriate?: No
Genre: Fiction
Book Format: Picture Book
Age Group: 2-5
Book Review: Follows a boy through his day from waking to sleep as he delights in all of the things he is able to do independently. The story opens with the boy wearing no clothing (astaghfirullaah), he also plays a musical instrument as a hobby, has a dog, sings and dances using musical instruments with his classmates, etc. Many concepts which contradict Islaamic legislation.

Until the next read insha'Allaah....

Friday, September 30, 2011

Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

After seeing this book on the Internet for many months and I have finally decided to read it.

Initially, I did not find myself inclined to place this book on my "Would like to read insha'Allaah" list because I find the Montessori method of education to be sound in many ways and whatever parts I feel either contradict Islaam or do not apply to my classroom, I leave them. I was under the impression that the book was written with the goal of convincing nay-Sayers or those who were considering Montessori for their child(ren) and wanted to know more about this style of educating children.

After reading about two chapters, the book appears to be one whose primary purpose is to present Montessori in light of the scientific research that has been conducted in the fields of psychology and cognitive science that seek to better understand how human beings learn. The author uses available psychological research literature to evaluate the Montessori method of educating children and she also addresses how she feels Montessori education is a much better alternative than the current school system prevalent today. She points out that, in her opinion, the method of educating children that is widely used today is based on flawed assumptions and systems that are applicable to factories but not to children.

In her book, author Angeline Stoll Lillard looks at eight of Maria Montessori's insights on how people learn and she applies current and past research to these insights to evaluate if they are sound. Not replete with scientific terminology (to make the reading assessable to parents and teachers), the book may be of interest to parents and/or teachers who seek to understand the pedagogy behind the Montessori method. If this interest is not there, parents may not find the book very engaging or even a bit technical...waallaahu a'lam.

pages: 346

This video (6 minutes long) compares/contrasts between Montessori Education and Traditional Education. And there is another video of this same nature that may further explain Lillard's comment that 

the method of educating children that is widely used today is based on flawed assumptions and systems that are applicable to factories but not to children

Second video is roughly 11 minutes long:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Storytime: رحلة فاشلة (Failed Trip)

  السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

In رحلة فاشلة (Failed Trip) a little kitten learns to be satisfied with what he has. After a cat named Qaatqut comes to visit Bisbis and remarks that he eats fish every day while Bisbis only eats fish twice a month, Bisbis accepts an invitiation from Qaatqut to visit a nearby market so he can eat fish every day as Qaatqut has said they will. During the trip, Bisbis looses Qaatqut and cannot not find him but he also does not know the way back to his house. 
This is a cute story that has, alhamdulillaah, the characters calling on Allaah for aide and also finding the way home by remembering that there is a masjid near their owners house. 

Alhamdulillaah, a story with a nice message to be grateful for what Allaah has provided you with and not look at what others have and in doing so not be satisfied with your rizq.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

RTL: Busy Boats

  السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Book Title: Busy Boats
Author: Susan Steggall
Islamically Appropriate?: Yes
Genre: Fiction
Book Format: Picture Book
Age Group: 4-8
Book Review: Following a fishing boat that leaves port in the morning and returns in the afternoon, this visual feast of a book illustrates many of the vessels to be seen in a typical harbour. From freighters being loaded with cargo, lifeboats, a ferry, speed boats, rowing boats and yachts, to an ocean liner, this is a book that celebrates the variety and beauty of boats and ships of every kind. Accompanied by a rhyming and rhythmic text that will delight the youngest readers, this is a great book for adults and young children to share.The pictures are bursting with colour ...An information story as interesting as lively as this will reinforce in young minds the message that print books can be exciting and relevant.' - (Review from Books for Keeps).

This book may nicely compliment a transportation theme

Until the next read insha'Allaah....