Thursday, March 31, 2011

Storytime: Pizza Pat

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

 Today we read Pizza Pat

Pizza Pat is a delightful tale of a man (named Pat, whom I renamed Ahmad when reading it aloud), who buys a new pizza tray to make his pizza. He diligently spreads the sauce, grates the cheese and applies the toppings to his pizza on his new pizza tray. Happily, he places the pizza into the oven and it comes out just fine alhamdulillaah. While the pizza is cooling down he cleans up the mess made from making the pizza and when he turns around to cut the's gone! Mice took it! (But I don't think Ahmad, who used to be Pat, knows that).

The book is a fun read aloud because it is a cumulative tale, similar to Jump, Frog, Jump!.

Just like Jump, Frog, Jump! after a few reads, children will be able to join in and chorus read some parts of Pizza Pat with you insha'Allaah. This book can also be used when teaching fractions (you can see an activity here insha'Allaah), sharing, and why we should not take things without asking permission (Ahmad, who used to be Pat, cries when the mice take his pizza).

You can recite and briefly discuss this ayah (using an authentic tafsir) after reading the story:

وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُوا بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُوا فَرِيقًا مِّنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالْإِثْمِ 
وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
 And eat up not one another's property unjustly (in any illegal way e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc.), nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully. 

{Al-Baqarah (2): 188}

This Step Into Reading book is for students in Preschool to grade 1. Children who are able to consistently recognize common sight words may enjoy this book and may be able to attempt reading it with some help from their teacher and/or parent. And if you're reading it aloud, students younger or older may enjoy hearing it...waallaau a'lam.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Storytime: How Do You Sleep?

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

 Today we read How Do You Sleep?

How Do You Sleep? is a book that has a familiar rhyme that children may easily recognize. This recognition may encourage children to attempt reading along with you after hearing the story read a loud a few times. Each page presents an animal that is commonly found on or around a farm and the author asks each animal how they sleep. But this simple question becomes one full of teaching and learning as the location where each animal sleeps is woven into the question and children learn not only where some animals sleep but how they sleep (i.e. standing up, on or in the water, etc.). The story ends by asking two children how they sleep and we see a father sitting bedside reading to his children as they prepare for bed. They then snuggle deep within the covers and drift off to sleep.

The oil paint illustrations are done with beautiful colours and are very soft. I enjoy reading stories that have illustrations such as these out loud to children because after lunch or when the classroom is bustling with energy, these type of drawings seem to have a calming affect on children...waallaahu a'lam.

I also believe that children very much have the capacity and ability to appreciate beautiful things and they react differently to materials that are crafted beautifully or to pictures that are simply stunning. This book is one that can be read aloud easily but it also lends itself to taking time to pause and allow the child(ren) to explore the illustrations. Allow them to notice the soft lines that make up the birds feathers, the light that shimmers off of the bears fur, the bumps on the frogs skin, and other details. While the illustrations are not stunning, they are well done and children may appreciate them...waallaahu a'lam.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Storytime: Flying

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

 Today we read  Flying by Donald Crews

Many of Donald Crews' books contain no, or very few pictures of living beings alhamdulillaah. The illustrations and sparse, descriptive text really holds childrens' interests. Many children find his books delightful and ask for them to be read again quite often. I have even noticed children just sitting exploring the pages of his books, carefully taking in each illustration, studying them really, before moving to the next page.

Flying is a simple exploration of taking a flight, captured in a clear, unobtrusive manner. The often one word sentences really invite conversation and discussion during storytime. They can help give children a springboard for talking about their own experiences with flying or trucks, school buses, trains or whichever topic presented in Donald Crews' books.

For units on transportation, you may wish to explore books written by Donald Crews...waallaahu a'lam. Or, if you are looking for books that simply delight young readers, books by Donald Crews may help in your search. I have come across one or two books by the author that are not Islaamically appropriate - please pay attention to the detail in the illustrations as well as the text insha'Allaah.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Storytime: Kulu Shajaratin Bithalath (Arabic): Each Tree Three

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Today we read Kulu Shajaratin Bithalath
(Each Tree Three)

This story is a bit longer than Ana wa Akhi and contains a lesson within the story. When a town that is blessed with trees surrounding it, wells that are full with water, and abundant profits from the wood of the trees, acts irresponsibly by not considering the consequence of cutting down their trees without replanting new ones, they soon find themselves not receiving much water. Without enough water for their people and enough trees to continue making a living, they decide to leave the town and find a new town that has many trees and wells full with water. An old man provides them with wise advice telling them that this will not solve their problem and they will find themselves in the same situation later. He advices that for every tree they cut down, they replant three trees in its place.

This is a nice story that can be used to teach children the importance of 1). Being thankful for the sustenance Allaah provides and 2). Being responsible stewards of the earth.

You can download this book and others here
(please note, not all books in this collection are Islamically appropriate)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Storytime: Where Does a Tiger-Heron Spend the Night?

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

This book teaches about unusual birds and their habitats and behaviours. Each page presents children with subtle and appealing acrylic illustrations of each bird and its habitat. The text asks the child a question about the bird and the child lifts the flap on the opposite page to find the answer. The text rhymes and also presents children with vocabulary that they may not be accustomed to hearing. Words like: mangroves, crests, plunge, warbling and gizzard are just a few examples.

This is one aspect of the book I liked. I recently read that Jim Trelease said [paraphrasing]: "If a child never hears a word, he won't say it. If he never says it, how will he be able to read it or write it?" That is a key in literacy education - putting words in childrens' ears. And that is yet one more beauty (and advantage) of reading aloud: children are exposed to scores of words that, independently, they cannot read but can understand when heard in context or with a little explanation insha'Allaah.

In Where Does a Tiger-Heron Spend the Night? even the names of the birds are unusual and exotic sounding. Have you ever heard of a ptarmigan (pronounced tar-ma-gun)?  That aspect mixed with the appealing illustrations and fun text combine to make this book one children may love hearing read aloud...waallaahu a'lam.

The only thing I changed in the story when reading it aloud was a line of text that seemed.....a bit...ummm..morbid? The text reads, ' Why does a vulture soar high overhead ? It's sniffing the wind for the scent of the dead.'  Instead I read, 'Why does a vulture soar high overhead? It finds dinner but  doesn't get dirty with its shinny bald head.'

Overall, Where Does a Tiger-Heron Spend the Night? is a wonderful book that I hope to add to my library insha'Allaah.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Martian in the Playground: Learning About Children with Asperger Syndrome

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

In classrooms across the world, teachers are encountering, with increasing frequency, children with special needs. Depending on the type of special needs the child has, the teacher may have the child in his/her classroom for the majority of the day. Islaamic schools are not exempt from this scenario and it presents a unique challenge to the teachers in these schools.

These children are our children and as Muslims and teachers, it helps tremendously if teachers take time to learn a little about the child's special needs who is a part of their learning environment. Armed with this knowledge, teachers may feel better equipped to help the child function in his/her classroom with less difficulty insha'Allaah.

The most common speacial needs students I have encountered in my classroom are children diagnosed with ADHD. This has become so common that many teachers, alhamdulillaah, have learned which strategies best help their ADHD learner succeed in class.

Recently however, I read two chapter books for middle school aged children and each had a character in the story with Asperger's Syndrome. I became intrigued. Asperger Syndrome has been classified as a form of Autism. Children with Asperger Syndrome are usually not physically different from their peers, with the exception of noticeable clumsiness in their gait or an unusual lack of coordination, these children sit among their peers but they do have special needs that teachers need to be aware of.

I had heard about Asperger Syndrome from a parent who expressed concern about the possibility of their child having this syndrome and after speaking at length with the parent my interest was now more than piqued so from the local library I checked out Martian in the Playground . Thus far, it is a fascinating and unfortunately, sad reading experience.

Fascinating because from what I have read so far, I have been given a peek into the world of children (and adults) who process information in such a unique way that it allows them to become extremely proficient in specific areas subhana'Allaah.

The read thus far has been sad due to the simple fact that these children, because they are unique, stand out among their peers and thus they often become the targets of bullying. La hawla wa la quwatta illah billaah.

As Muslims, one of our goals should be teaching our children how to respect these children. As a teacher, I feel especially obligated to be aware of potential bullying happening in my classroom (or my school). This type of behaviour (i.e. bullying) is completely unislaamic and totally unacceptable. It is reprehensible and goes against the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayahi wa salam).

As I have been researching Asperger Syndrome, I have come across Muslimahs who blog about their special needs children and I am thankful to Allaah that He has allowed me to begin learning about this unique way of learning, behaving, seeing and functioning in the world. I hope to come back when I have finished the book insha'Allaah, and share more about Asperger's Syndrome and if you have a child diagnosed with this syndrome, or you are knowledgeable about it, I would enjoy learning from you and your child. And if you homeschool a child with Asperger Syndrome, I would especially enjoy learning about how you address the social skills needs of children with this syndrome.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mini-Mu' Launches Free Online Bookroom!

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

What a wonderful bit of news to share! Mini-Mu'min Publications has launched a FREE online bookroom where you can read many of their books in their entirety for free in digital e-book format! Masha'Allaah! Presented in colouful high-quality flip books, each book has sound and zoom features, making this an experience that children may really enjoy insha'Allaah.

Many of their stories rhyme which is a great way to help children remember words, begin to recognize word patterns. Rhyme is an important aspect in children's literacy education for several reasons: Rhymes are easy for children to learn, have fun with and remember. For emergent readers, rhyme is very important because it helps children learn about the language by making it easy for them to hear and learn word families (i.e. bat, sat, mat, rat, etc.). Rhyme also helps teach phonemic awareness which is a key factor in learning to read. Phonemic awareness helps children successfully navigate the sounds of a language because it helps them become aware that units of sound make words. And that knowledge, by the Permission of Allaah, helps lead to reading success insha'Allaah!

Another, and a big, plus about these books is that they are illustrated without the use of facial features! Beautiful, brightly coloured fun illustrations grace the pages of the books and this makes the books very appealing masha'Allaah. If you have never read any of the Mini-Mu'min books, I think you (and your child(ren) will enjoy these books. And if you have read them, then perhaps you might enjoy reading more of their titles....FREE!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Storytime: Ana wa Akhi:Me and My Brother (Arabic & English)

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

This is a cute and fun story about two boys, Waleed and Sa'eed. Waleed is the older of the two and tells how he prepares himself for school each morning. Sa'eed, wishing to imitate his older brother tells how he too gets ready for school in the morning, although he is too young to go to school yet *smile*. The ending is very cute as Sa'eed does not make it off to school as he planned but makes it off to sleep instead!

The books from this series are several but all are not appropriate. I downloaded this book from a blog and when I went to link back to it, I could not locate it or the other two books they had (but you can click on the title of the book above to download a copy from

And I just googled to try to find the book again but instead I found this! It's the book with English translation alhamdulillaah. This is nice for those wishing to increase their child(ren)'s Arabic vocabulary. Each page has select vocabulary words and in the back of the book all of these words are listed in a mini-dictionary format.

Enjoy your reading insha'Allaah!