Assalamwalaikum and welcome
I want to thank the IWA Board of Directors for giving me the opportunity to put together and edit this Special Section of the 2012 Spring Edition of IWA Magazine, as well as using my suggestion for the overall theme of “books”.
The reason for suggesting books as the theme is because most writers will agree their love of writing developed from their love of reading. In this issue IWA members share their favourite childhood books, pointing to ones they read as children and found inspirational.
In this special section you can find out more about how the absence of books affects literacy and the impact IWA’s book donations have had. Join me in taking particular delight in the wonderful feedback and heart-warming photographs from one of the recipients of IWA’s generous annual book awards.
Promoting literacy world-wide is the purpose of the IWA and specifically targeting children, youth and young adults with quality Islamic literature – especially Islamic fiction – is one of our primary goals. I hope you are inspired by what you read to give your support to Muslim writers producing quality Islamic literature and fiction.
Special Section Editor
‘The Libraries that the Ummah Built’ by Amina Malik
IWA generously donates books to schools around the world every year. The money is raised through IWA’s membership fees – so each member of IWA is contributing to the education of children across the world. The donations mean under-funded schools receiving books they would not otherwise be able to afford. Amina Malik interviewed Jean Flomer at Al-Amal School in Fridley Minnesota, to see how IWA’s recent book donation was received.
Can you explain to the readers what your role at Al-Amal is?
I started as a 1st grade teacher in 2000. I became a librarian when a room was designated as a “library” in 2008. I have been the librarian ever since.
Do you have a connection to the IWA?
I am acquainted with IWA through the fact that Fawzia Gilani-Williams was a teacher at Al-Amal school the first year I taught here. Later I began reading her books and through connections with her and IECN conferences and Dr. Freda Shamma’s list of Islamic Value books, I began using IWA booklists to try to acquire books for my students.
How many donations has Al-Amal School received from IWA?
This was our first donation from IWA.
Please explain your usual source of funding for books?
In the past four years we have had book sales organized and run by our students. Parents, classes and outside sources have donated “gently used” books and funds to the library. We keep a “Donate for the Library” jar available in the library for “small change” donations. Personal donations of books and/or money have helped us acquire a collection of over 5,000 books and media.
Now however, we want to select books that meet our goal of providing “Islamic Value” books. This requires the money to pay for them.
We are currently working with Mackin Books on a fundraiser called Funds4Books. (Our site is listed below). The goal of the fundraiser is to acquire books from the Islamic Reading list at theisla.org. Listed books are entered into our on-line catalogue as “Islamic Value” books. That way parents, students and staff will have access to the wonderful list that has been created to help us surround our young readers with good values. www.Funds4books.com Code 6467.
This is the first time we have tried this type of fundraiser. So far it seems that it will be a good one for us and perhaps other Islamic Schools.
Who will be using the books IWA donated?
The books will be used with or by students, pre-school through grade 10. They will be accessible to our 11th and 12th grade PSEO students and staff members as well. Some of the books will be read to the students by teachers or older students.
We are discussing a program where the fiction books for elementary students will be read by middle and high school student volunteers as a “Chapter A Day” program. We hope to introduce these books to a larger group of students sooner by having them read by an older student to a class. We will be able to reach 25-30 students with each book that way. InshaAllah the books will then be put on our shelves for individual check-out.
The Islamic Studies books, including The Holy Qur’an in Todays English, Learning about Islam, and others will be used by our Islamic Studies teachers as well as home room teachers.
All books were added as “Muslim Author” in our on-line library catalogue for easy access.
Have any favorite books been identified so far, from the ones donated?
I have used Allah Made the World by Samina Najar with the preschoolers. They loved the story, the pictures and especially enjoyed answering questions and counting to find answers. I used Full Circle by Yahiya Emerick with my Kindergarten and 1st graders.
I scanned the pictures and read the stories as I flipped through the pictures. That way the children got a screen sized view of the pictures. The reaction of the students was great to see and hear. They used prediction, retold the story in sequence and talked about the guidance of Allah throughout the class. Some of the other Elementary teachers are reading the fiction chapter books from the Ahmed and Layla Deen series by Yahiya Emerick and the Hijab-EZ series by Linda Delgado. Students have commented that many of them had read all the series and were excited that we now have them available in our library.
I introduced some of the books in our Elementary School Assembly. The students immediately started asking for them when they came to the library. An extra blessing was that the students now searched under “Muslim Author” and also checked out other books we had in our catalogue.
Middle and high students were especially excited by the Echoes series by Jamilah Kolocotronis. The Echoes Series is very popular at Al-Amal School. The set we had has been repaired many times. Our young adults were especially excited about these books. I also share that title with new Muslims I meet. My son (20 at the time) became a Muslim. I knew very little about Islam at the time. But I knew enough about 20 year olds not to express doubts. I went to the masjid with him and became a Muslim myself a year later. This series reflected many of the feelings and questions that went on in my family and work situations during my life as a Muslim.
Our students were also drawn to the non-fiction Islamic books, poetry books and story collections.
Can you tell us why the receipt of these books will make a difference to the children?
Having a library was a dream to many teachers for many years. Now that we have the library, we are striving to fill it with books of Islamic/Family values. This donation has brought us a great addition to that goal.
Jazak Allah Kharan to all the Muslim authors, illustrators and everyone who supports our goals to provide a rich collection of literature that supports the Islamic values and manners. Your gift not only provides books but offers clear direction for our budding Muslim authors.
- Al-Amal School
A Library Card and a Book of Their Own: the Best Gifts to Give a Child
by Amina Malik
One in six people in the UK has the shockingly low literacy level of an eleven year old, according to the UK’s National Literacy Trust. The number of adults who struggle with literacy is certainly increasing so tackling the issue of reading from a young age is vital to avoid these figures growing. There has never been a bigger need to promote a love of reading in children.
- In 2005, the National Literacy Trust carried out a survey, discovering that “1 in 10 of the children and young people we surveyed said they did not have a book of their own at home; while in 2011 the figure stands at a startling 1 child in 3.” It is not difficult to imagine what the repercussions of a lack of books at home would have on a child’s reading and writing abilities.The survey revealed very clearly that children who owned their own books had higher levels of literacy overall than those who did not: “of the children and young people who have books of their own …only 7.6% read below the level expected for their age. By contrast, of those who say that they do not have books of their own, over double (19%) read below the expected level for their age.”Whilst the survey focused on children who did not own books, the statistics add to a much bigger picture – there is a lack of suitable reading material for children in many homes.
Much commentary has already been made on how the electronic era has caused children’s interest in books to wane; it will do little to repeat it here. But the fact remains, this generation of children do not understand the significance of books. They lack an interest in them, favouring the hand-held games console. They lack love for books, seeing them as “uncool”. They lack a reverence of books, tossing them aside, yet they understand a little better the expense of their computers. So what can we do to amend this dilemma? Give children books as gifts. The significance of a child owning his own book should not be underestimated but the book must be given pride of place – it must be emphasised from a young age that the book is valuable.
For those who love books, reading opens a myriad of unique doors that lead to fictional wonderlands and knowledge hubs. But some children are never shown the portals that are housed between the covers of books because it is no longer a la mode to give books as gifts. The only solution to low literacy levels is for parents and guardians to be proactive and start bringing books into the home. This could be via trips to the bookstore with children, introducing them to a new and wonderful world.
Another solution is to take children to the library. A library membership may be the best gift a child ever receives. This ensures a constant stream of new books coming into the home, with no cost. Furthermore, trips to the library with a child means that the child can regularly choose what he wants to read himself. Empowering the child to choose his own reading material promotes a sense of responsibility (if you explain the library system and that books are precious) as well as freedom of choice. Introducing the child to a series can prompt him to want to read the next in the series and therefore develop a desire for books.
To this writer (and reader), books are power. This is because books contain information and information is knowledge. Knowledge is the key to empowerment; to understanding, to learning, to gaining an ability or skill, to improving one’s life and the lives of others. Reading means increasing one’s vocabulary and learning to express oneself using the written word. Therefore, this is no minor issue: instilling a love of reading from a young age means producing smarter children.
Parents, guardians and teachers:
- Introduce children to books and teach them the value of books.
- Take children to libraries and let them choose their own books.
- Introduce them to a series of books so that they develop a desire to read further.
- Read with children and encourage them to read to you.
- Give children books as gifts.
Amina Malik is a former journalist, having been published in newspapers, magazines and online publications. Amina has a blog that gives tips for new writers – as well as her thoughts about London, photography, cheese, martial arts and China (things she loves) – which can be accessed through her website www.aminamalik.co.uk. Amina has experience writing in a number of genres and has also published poetry, Islamic articles and fiction, including Islamic Fiction stories in IWA Magazine. Amina works in the legal field and lives in London with her husband and soul mate.