“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” – Mary Catherine Bateson
When we are told a story, almost every area of the brain is activated; we experience the events of the story as if they actually occurred to us. We feel the fear, joy, pain, and sorrow. Children will retain more information when it is presented to them as a story. Children who are read to have better language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and superior reading skills than their peers who were not exposed to books at an early age.
One of the reasons why one never tires of reading the miraculous Qur’an and why the Qur’an captivates our hearts every time we listen to it is because of the stories told in the Holy Qur’an. How fond of Surah Yusuf are you? That is probably because Surah Yusuf is, from beginning to end, a beautiful story. It is a story of family, betrayal, honesty, suffering, loss, grief, patience, and in the end, triumph, power, and also forgiveness and love.
Never underestimate the power of a good story.
In our family, story-time has always been a ritual at bedtime, over a snack of milk and cookies, in the car, and on rainy days! I found myself resorting to the help of a trusty storybook when dealing with different changes; a new baby in the home, moving to a new city, preparing for surgery, and learning to perform the five daily prayers.
To expand our circle of book lovers, this year we started a reading club for my youngest girl, inviting her third-grade class to join. Less than half of her classmates showed up at our first meeting. Soon enough, the number grew and we received requests from moms asking if their daughters could bring along a cousin or sister!
In preparation for our reading club, we stocked up on character-building books, art supplies for activities related to the story, prizes, stickers, healthy snacks, and a projector to display the book pages on a large screen.
We enjoyed several books this year and had a fun activity at each meeting. The only activity that went slightly out of hand was making calming jars. The girls accidentally dumped glitter on the chairs, the tables, their clothes, the floor, their friends’ hair, and well, you got the glittery picture.
The story I want to highlight and strongly recommend for every Muslim family was actually suggested to me by a good friend.
The Boy and The Owl is a story written by Siraj Mowjood and beautifully illustrated by Aisha Changezi and is based on the poem, “The Creed of Salvation” by Muhammad ibn Ja`far Al-Kattani. The book describes 13 essential attributes of Allah, in a way a child can understand. For example, the reader learns that Allah has speech, power, hearing, sight, will, and knowledge and is attributed with life.
It is the story of a boy who asks a wise owl how he can learn about Allah. The owl takes the boy on a journey, and the boy discovers the existence, the power, glory, and oneness of Allah. One particular picture which all the girls in my reading club unanimously picked as their favorite part of the book was a picture of a magnificent tree, with interlacing roots drawn under the soil. The boy realizes that just like he cannot see the underground roots but he knows for a fact that the tree has roots, he cannot see Allah but he knows for a fact that Allah exists, and Allah is the Creator.
Page after page, drawing after drawing, children learn about Allah with this curious, inquisitive boy. A must-do activity after reading the book is having the girls make their own stuffed animal — a soft, snuggly owl. I found this idea, with print out templates of the owl’s body parts that you can use to easily cut out on felt, and make a friendly, wise owl. You can find the easy-to-follow instructions here. The girls in our reading club were really creative and you can see how each one ended up with a cute owl.
This book was also the perfect introduction to some of Allah’s Beautiful Names and Attributes; The Creator, The All-Seeing, The All-Hearing, The Ever-Living. We used around 20 Names from our pack of the Beautiful Names of Allah flash cards, and the girls played an intense round of memory game!
To conclude our reading club meeting, we watched the video and chanted along with the song, Allah Made Everything, sung by Zain Bhikha. All in all, the reading club has been a wonderful experience for myself, my daughter, and I’m hoping all the girls in our club!
I found an excellent resource for involving the kids in arts and crafts while learning about the Beautiful Names of Allah, from this amazing mom and homeschooler, Dr. Gemma Elizabeth, here. You can check out her website for a long list of related activities.