At their minimal, books provide children a mirror in which they see themselves and the world around them reflected. Reading invites children to use their imaginations, explore new realities, and gain a better understanding of respect for themselves and others.
Here are a few must-have books for every Muslim child's library:
My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin (grades 3-6). Bilal and his sister Ayesha have just started class at a new school. Bilal understands that he and his sister are the only Muslims at the school and attempts to hide the fact he is Muslim by introducing himself as "Bill". He decides to do this after having witnessed two boys following his sister and one of them pulling off her headscarf. However, with the guidance of a teacher who gives him a book on Bilal ibn Rabah, Bilal learns he most embrace his identity. Soon he is also able to make new friends. Other books by this author include The Best Eid Ever and A Party in Ramadan.
Three Cups of Tea (The Young Reader's Edition) by Greg Mortenson and Sarah Thomson. Many adults have read the original Three Cups of Tea, and in 2009, this New York Times Bestseller was adapted for younger readers (grade 6-8). This newer book includes pictures, maps, and a glossary. The story is a tale of commitment, character, and ambition, the story of a man on a mission to provide education to tens of thousands of students in Pakistan and Afghanistan regardless of the personal and material costs.
Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson (kindergarten-grade 4). Also released in 2009, another edition of Three Cups of Tea adapted for the youngest of readers. The story is told seamlessly and visualized with colorful fabric and computer generated collages that will gain the attention of children.
A Drop of Mercy: The Water Cycle by Shahbatun Abu Bakar, Nordin Endut, and Azhari Zulkifli (kindergarten-grade 4). This book presents a milestone in literature for Muslim children; it is among the first that makes a distinctive effort to link science to Allah's creation. The water cycle is being taught earlier and earlier in school, and it is very important for children to understand the many purposes and blessings of water. The illustrations are very effective in guiding the book along. A special wall poster is also included with every book.
Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz (preschool-grade 1). You really cannot go wrong with any Karen Katz book. This book is a celebration of the United Nations Peace Day (September 21). It shows preschoolers in countries ranging from India to Mexico and France and how they say "peace" in their languages. This book is a great pick for children as it helps immerse them in a multicultural approach to the world and embracing diversity. Be sure to also check out My First Ramadan by the same author.
A to Z of Akhlaaq - Moral Values for Children by Nafees Khan (grade 1-4). Time to throw out those traditional ABC books and dive into this adorable book that both children and adults will come to love. The book starts off with "A is for 'Akhlaaq', that is manners in our 'Deen'. They are also important to practice for us to stay on Siratul Mustaqeem." Another suggestion in this category would be My First ABC from the Qur'an by Siddiqa Juma.
Floatsam by David Wiesner (kindergarten-grade 5). There might be some people out there who have no idea who David Wiesner is, and to these people: it's the literary equivalent of not knowing what ice cream is. Floatsam is a Caldecott Medal Book (the highest honor awarded to picture books). The real kicker? The book has no words. Absolutely none. While to many adults this may seem blasphemous, simply hand this book over to a child as young as 5 or as old as 11 and watch the magic happen.
Let's Get to Know Imam Ali (grade 2-5). This book is a great introduction to young children to the sublime and heroic character of Imam Ali (peace be upon him). In addition to presenting eleven special virtues about Imam Ali, this book is also accompanied by well crafted and vibrant pictures. For many children, this could be a great way to get to know more about Imam Ali, starting from his birth to his martyrdom.
2030: A Day in the Life of Tomorrow's Kids by Amy Zuckerman and Jim Daly (grades 3-5). A talking dog, schools that snap together, and a robot that cleans your house? It must be 2030. This colorful and eventful book is a quick and fun read for children as they explore the life of a fellow child in the year 2030. The book does also make slight references to social changes as such the increase of interracial marriage and eco-friendly technology.
Sameerah's Hijab and the First Day of School by Janette Grant (grade 3-5). A book so wonderfully done belongs on the shelf of every Muslim girl about to begin wearing a headscarf! The story focuses on a young girl who has just moved from Yemen to the United State and how much she loves her Hijab. Although at first her classmates wonder why she is wearing a headscarf – perhaps she is cold, they think – soon she explains her headscarf to her classmates and also learns more about her new home.
Stories of the Prophets for Children Series (grade 3-6). Each book tells the story of a different Prophet accompanied by breathtaking illustrations. Among the titles are the stories of Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Muhammad, and Adam (peace be upon them all). The book can be purchased here.