Friday, September 4, 2015

A Text to Use When Teaching Habitats

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
When teaching habitats, having a variety of interesting, well-illustrated non-fiction texts enhances the unit and helps engage students, and, most importantly, it helps students gain further appreciation for the Greatness of Allaah.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea is a non-fiction text that will provide children with a generous, but not overwhelming, amount of fascinating information about the creation of Allaah, while helping them understand that Allaah is al-Khaliq.

Read this review and you will see why having this book in your homeschool classroom/ classroom will enhance your ocean or animals unit. 

"...Steve Jenkins offers young readers a quietly stunning story about the world below the watery surface in Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea. With his incredible paper collage illustrations of sea creatures and informative text, Jenkins manages to plumb the unfathomable depths of our oceans for the age 5-9 set in this perfect read-aloud and look closely book. Down, Down, Down captures the vastness, complexity and mysteriousness of the deep without over-simplifying the new research and astonishing discoveries. This oceanography lesson unfolds as a story in which the reader descends from the blue surface down nearly 36,000 feet (that’s seven miles down!) to the Marianas Trench, while meeting Flying Squids and Loosejaw Stoplight Fish along the way. This is an enchanting and informative choice for kids who loved the classic illustrations of Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert and Leo Lionni as pre-schoolers, but are ready to bump up to a nonfiction read..."

Here is a peek at some of the paper collage illustrations:

What books do you use when teaching habitats?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Before Ramadan, we were exploring the One Small Square series, but we took a break to review The Lonely Scarecrow. Let's stay sidetracked for a little while longer. Have you read Trapped! A Whale's Rescue, yet? No, well head to your local library and search the shelves, because this is a really good book! Read this review from Booklist and you'll see what I mean. 

"Based on an event that took place near San Francisco in 2005, this picture book depicts a humpback whale swimming, diving, and feeding freely until she becomes entangled in abandoned, drifting nets. Her struggles draw the ropes tighter until, trapped, she stops and lies still. Boats bring rescuers to the scene. Five divers cut the lines, one by one, until the whale can swim again. "She moves among the cheering rescuers, softly nudging each one, as if saying thanks." The whale breaches and swims away. In Minor's beautifully composed gouache paintings, the whale is a silent but enormously empathetic character. Several appended pages offer more information about the actual event, whale rescues in general, and humpback whales in particular. Adults reading the book aloud may want to introduce words such as spyhop, lobtail, fluke, and krill before beginning, to avoid breaking the cadence of the writing once the story is underway. Like the stately illustrations, the precise prose has a dignity that is worthy of its subject and unusual in a picture book for preschool and primary-grade children. Although the episode of the whale's entrapment and release is short, it will linger in young listeners' minds long after the book is closed."

The prose and tone of this book very effectively take the reader under the water, and readers will very likely hold their breath, feel a burst of concern as the whale struggles, and cheer when the whale is freed. 

And the paintings...well...subhanallaah...they are just as strong and as captivating as the prose. Have a look (But you will really need to check this book out to appreciate its strength and beauty):

Young children will be able to see, easily, how large and stunning whales are. What an excellent opportunity to reinforce (or teach) how Great Allaah is! This is definitely a book to consider purchasing for your classroom//homeschool classroom. 

We will return to our review of the One Small Square series (maybe - if other great books keep coming to my attention, we may not make it back to One Small Square!) in the future in shaa' Allaah. 

**A note of caution: In the back of the book, there are pages that give more information about whales and, unfortunately, in the "Did You Know" section there is a sentence that is unislaamic; it is shirk, so children should not be allowed to read this section alone.

Until the next book in shaa' Allaah

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Lonley Scarecrow

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Today, we will take a break from our review of the One Small Square Series to review The Lonely Scarecrow in'shaa Allaah.

This book is a wonderful choice for read-aloud time because the story lends itself to discussions about treating others kindly. In this story, a scarecrow longs to be friends with the animals that live in the field in which he stands, but the animals are afraid to approach him because of his looks. They do not realize that the scarecrow is kind and even though he looks menacing and scary, he is not. 

There are so many concepts that this book can help children discuss and understand: compassion and tolerance are two, and you can also teach character analysis with this book.

Here is what has to say about The Lonely Scarecrow : A kindly scarecrow wants to be friends with the birds and animals that play at the edge of his wheat field, but they are afraid of him because of his clothing and "his beady eyes, his crooked nose, and his jagged metal mouth." Many animals watch him, but none dare to approach him. As winter arrives, the creatures run home to their burrows and nests. Then one night, snow falls and turns the scarecrow into a jolly snowman, and the animals play with him. Though he is happy now, he worries that when the snow melts, he will be alone again. But his fears are unfounded; the animals are surprised to learn his true identity, but they love him just the same.

How would you use this book in your home-classroom/ traditional classroom?

Until the next book in'shaa Allaah...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Become a Spelunker in One Small Square

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

What is a spelunker?! Young learners find out in One Small Square: Cave

Continuing with the review of the One Small Square series, today, in'shaa Allaah, we will take a look at this exciting book. 

In One Small Square: Cave, children will explore the stunning world of caves in this beautifully illustrated book, and while their eyes feast on the many wonders found in caves, they will learn how Allaah has shaped and formed and created the rocks, plants, and animals that live in caves. 

Children will also learn that Allaah has created some animals to live in caves - in complete darkness - their entire lives. Many of these creatures are blind and some even have no eyes at all. Subhana'Allaah! 

Young learners will discover that caves have a zone called the twilight zone and it is in this zone where plants grow and many animals that do not live their entire lives in caves come to rest, give birth, and escape cold and danger.  

Like the other books that have been reviewed so far in this series, educators will need to reword and correct a few sentences that refer to nature as a force that creates, maintains and sustains creatures and plants, instead of Allaah aza wa jal. Alhamdulillaah, these sentences are few (only two or three short sentences in this book, if I am not mistaken), and they are easily reworded.  

In'shaa Allaah, in One Small Square: Cave, children will continue to enjoy their journey through and exploration of the natural world that Allaah has created, and if you haven't already read the reviews for some of the other books in this series, you can do so here in'shaa Allaah. 

Until the next book in'shaa Allaah... 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Explore the African Savanna from One Small Square

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

It is hard to imagine that children will be disappointed in the adventure that awaits them in One Small Square: African Savanna.

Life and death on the savanna and the incredible way in which Allaah has decreed that animals make their living and survive in this environment are explained well in this book. Additionally, children will gather much knowledge from the informative captions that surround the pages.

However, like the other books from this series that have been reviewed here on The Well Read Muslim, there are sentences that parents/educators will need to reword so children are not taught concepts that conflict with the shari'ah. One such sentence is "Nature depends on everything living on the savanna to do its part." Nature here seems to refer to what non-Muslims believe creates, maintains, and sustains the natural world that Allaah created. The two or three sentences that follow the above-mentioned sentence confirm this, so parents/educators will need to reword these sentences in'shaa Allaah. Overall, however, there is much children can learn in this book alhamdulillaah, under the guidance of a parent/educator.

Here is what has said about One Small Square: African Savanna: The African grasslands stretch across the continent below the Sahara. In a swuare of land about the size of a living room, children will see animals they might have encountered only at the zoo. . .discover the rewards and dangers of their natural home. . .and observe how these creatures live with each other in a changing, endangered environment. It's an exciting journey of discovery, coming to you from the One Small Square series of interactive science and nature books. . .where the next stop could be as near as your backyard or as far as half a world away.

If you haven't read the other One Small Square series reviews here on The Well Read Muslim, you can find them here in'shaa Allaah.

Until the next book in'shaa Allaah...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Another Small Square Right in Your Backyard

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

Continuing with our review of the One Small Square series, we'll look at One Small Square: Backyard.

This book, like One Small Square: Woods, is an adventure wrapped up nicely between the covers of a book. This book, however, must be read with some caution because there are several references to the "survival of the fittest" and evolution, which conflict with the shari'a. Parent-teachers and other educators can easily re-word these sentences to avoid teaching children these ideas. Children can be told that it is Allaah who decides who lives and who dies, it is Allaah who provides for all of His creation and no other (i.e. nature, man, etc.) has any say in this. Alhamdulillaah, children can still learn much from this book and there is so much for them to discover among its pages, but it is not a book that should be left for children to read on their own.

Like the other books in the series, the activities get children out into the natural world and they (i.e. the activities) encourage children to notice and pay attention to the ayaat of Allaah. As well, the illustrations can provide children with sustained periods of exploration; there is so much to discover on each page but not too much that the senses are overwhelmed.

Here is what has to say about One Small Square: Backyard : An exciting journey of science discovery is as near as your own backyard. Just one small square is alive with creepers and crawlers, lifters and leapers, singers, buzzers, climbers, builders, and recyclers. Backyard invites children ages 7 and up to become nature lovers by looking, listening, touching, and smelling the world from the ground up! ...[With] the unique One Small Square series of science activity books ...children can explore exotic and familiar ecosystems in detail, one small square at a time.

Until the next book in'shaa Allaah...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

One Small Square, One Big Adventure

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

In the last post, I mentioned how delightful it is to find a book that teaches children important concepts and is beautifully illustrated.  In this post, and upcoming posts in'shaa Allaah, a series of books will be reviewed that also have these two attributes. The first book to be reviewed from the series is One Small Square.

There are so many things about this book that children can enjoy. The illustrations are beautiful, the tone makes readers feel as if they are being led through the woods by a tour guide who is carefully and quietly telling them about all of the wonderful things can be found in the woods - if only one is looking - and the activities are engaging and appeal to children's natural curiosity. The wonder doesn't end there. In the back of the book, in a black and white square, children are invited to find animals and insects that were featured in the book and there are several pages that picture and name the animals, insects, and plants that appeared in the book.

This is a book that you can read aloud to children, bits at a time, and then place in your home or classroom library and allow children to pour over the pages and discover so many ayaat of Allaah. This is also a book that can be enjoyed in every season because the author features the woods in each season and provides an activity (and in some seasons, activities) that children can complete independently in many cases.

Children in grades 1-4 may enjoy this book very, very much! There is only one point/sentence in the book that parents and/or teachers will need to modify: Educators will need to remind children that what occurs in the natural world only does so by the Permission of Allaah. Children must also be reminded that nature does not create anything nor does it sustain or provide for itself, independent of Allaah's Mercy or Permission.

From The woods are full of puzzles to be solved, clues to be found. Inspired by this book's hints and fun-filled experiments and activities, and using only simple equipment, young readers unlock the closely guarded secrets of the woods­­ from the strange meetings of lazy butterflies, to the miraculous "walking" of a twig, to the riddle of why the leaves turn color and fall. One small square at a time, these "detectives" plunge deeper and deeper into ancient mysteries­­ without ever getting lost. Beautifully illustrated, Woods offers a picture field guide, a glossary-index, and a resource list.

Until the next book in'shaa Allaah....

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Plants Feed Me: A Delightful Read Aloud

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

It is always a joy to find a book that helps teach children an important concept, is beautifully illustrated, and accompanies a story that captures children's interest and imagination. Plants Feed Me is one of those books.

This non-fiction picture book helps children understand how, by the Permission of Allaah, we get much of our food from plants. Children will encounter fruits and vegetables that they enjoy and consume each day, and they will learn from which part of the plant each of these foods come.

Alhamdulillaah, there are many ayaat in the Qur'aan which you can read to children prior to reading this book, to help children begin to understand the Mercy of Allaah and to help them understand that He is Al-Khaliq, and it is He who provides for His creation. A few ayaat that can be used to introduce this book are:

خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ بِغَيْرِ عَمَدٍ تَرَوْنَهَا ۖ وَأَلْقَىٰ فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَن تَمِيدَ بِكُمْ وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَابَّةٍ ۚ وَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ زَوْجٍ كَرِيمٍ

He has created the heavens without any pillars that you see, and has set on the earth firm mountains lest it should shake with you. And He has scattered therein moving (living) creatures of all kinds. And We send down water (rain) from the sky, and We cause (plants) of every goodly kind to grow therein. {Luqman: 10}

وَالْأَرْضِ ذَاتِ الصَّدْعِ 

And the earth which splits (with the growth of trees and plants). 
{At-Tariq: 12}

وَالْأَرْضَ مَدَدْنَاهَا وَأَلْقَيْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ زَوْجٍ بَهِيجٍ

And the earth! We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and have produced therein every kind of lovely growth (plants). {Qaf: 7}

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ

O you who believe (in the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism)! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you with, and be grateful to Allah, if it is indeed He Whom you worship. {Al-Baqarah: 172}

Please be aware that on the last page, there is a two-page spread of a farm and there are, on the left-hand side of the page, a pin with pigs in it. You can cover this part of the picture easily with a few small stickers alhamdulillaah. All other illustrations are delightful and wonderfully drawn.

This spring, if possible, plan to read Plants Feed Me in'shaa Allaah. 

Until the next book in'shaa Allaah....

Monday, May 18, 2015

Books Stduents Enjoyed this Year, Alhamdulillaah

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
Alhamdulillaah, during our study of Plants and Seeds, several books enhanced the unit and added to the learning experience (This unit study will be posted on A Muslim Child Grows Up some time soon ins'allaah).

The following books complimented our study of Plants and Seeds:

What Are Seeds? (Plants Close-Up) is a book that students in grades 1 and 2 may particularly enjoy because of the accessible language and bright, colourful pictures. In simple language, students learn about what seeds are and how Allaah has created them to contain everything needed for a new plant to grow, by His Permission. Also, alhamdulillaah, the pictures in the book are almost exclusively of seeds and plants.

How a Seed Grows shows students, step by softly illustrated step, the process of seed growth. The language is not as accessible as the language in What Are Seeds ,so this book may be better chosen for your read- aloud time and then placed in your classroom/homeschool library where, students can revisit the text and retell the story using their own words (which will be scaffolded by your read aloud in'shaa allaah).

How We Use Plants for Food is similar - language wise - to How a Seed Grows but it is packed with information about how Allaah has created plants to provide a variety of foods for human beings. Subhana'Alaah! Children will see, from yet another angle, the great and expansive Mercy of Allaah.

Seeds and Fruits is very much like How We Use Plants for Food and children will learn how different seeds and fruits not only provide food for humans, but animals as well.

Are there any books that your students/children enjoyed when studying seeds and plants?

Until the next book in'shaa allaah....