Reading to children is an enjoyable experience for both adult and child. There are many benefits of reading to children as well as many reading options. Read on to find out how to develop a love of reading in your child, and how to choose a good children’s book.
As a parent, teacher or educator of little Muslims, we have an important role of imparting knowledge to bright and young minds that have incredible potential for learning and retaining information. There is no shortage of children’s books that have valuable lessons contained within, but it is heartening to see many more books, of a high quality, that are being released for children that have an Islamic element within.
Written by Muslims for Muslim children, these books often focus on an Islamic principle, Qur’anic message or life of the Prophet Muhammad and incorporate this with imaginative stories, captivating illustrations and other interesting features. By using these, as well as a variety of other books, we can instil in our children a love of books and a love of reading, whether for learning or for pleasure.
Benefits of Reading to Children
1. Soothing Effect
In my own short experience of being a mother to two young children, I have noticed that the one, most effective way of calming my children down, is to open a book and start reading. Whether it is just looking at picture books (for younger children) or reaching for a favourite story book, the one-on-one attention that reading provides can diffuse most tantrums.
2. Parent-Child Bonding
Reading out loud to children is also important for parent-child bonding. It provides a framework where only the parent, child and story exist, apart from the normal surroundings. In a world where we are largely distracted by electronic devices and screens, again, it is the one-on-one attention that reading a book provides. This connection is vital to share with young children.
3. An Educational Tool
Choosing a book with an embedded lesson or moral is also a great way to teach children about certain things that may be difficult to explain in normal circumstances. Children respond very well to characters that they can relate to, and through them it is easier to communicate difficult concepts.
Tips to Develop Young Readers
It is widely agreed that the single most important way of developing a love for reading in children is to provide them with a variety of books. Picture books with bold, fun pictures are a great way to start out and then gradually increase the complexity of the books. However, it is important not to limit children to books that are only recommended for their age. Introducing more complex books earlier may help develop their understanding of concepts much earlier.
Make reading fun for both of you! Do this by associating reading time with positive family time. Establish a special place to read books and to store them. It does not need to be anything fancy: a special reading sofa, corner or bookcase will do. Let your child be a part of the decision.
3. Library Trips
Visit the public library regularly and scour second-hand stores for pre-loved books to build up your collection or arrange a swap with your friends and family. Make the occasion of buying a new book one to look forward to. One common factor among adults I know who have a love for reading is that they were encouraged to choose their own books from a young age and taken to bookstores or libraries and given the time and liberty to explore.
Develop a reading routine for your family. Carve out a specific time or times of the day where children can choose a number of books to be read out aloud to them. Your child may choose to read the same book every day for months, but if your child has chosen it, read it! If children experience this time as a positive time, they will associate reading with positivity and will grow to love to read, In sha Allah.
How to Choose Children’s Books
Buying or borrowing books for children can be fun. Bookstores and libraries are places where you can spend hours at, but in the end not every book is suitable or beneficial for your child. Below are some tips that can help you make good choices:
1. Read Reviews Before Buying
While there is no shortage of books available, that does not mean that they are all of equal quality. This is especially true when it comes to Islamic books for children. Unfortunately, there are many in which the grammar is imprecise, or the level of writing or the subject matter dealt with is unsuitable for children. There is a slow but definite trend towards books of high quality within this niche. The key still lies in buying books that appeal to children, both in their writing, content and illustrations.
2. Look for These Key Elements
Look for books that maintain a good pace that can keep children interested, have likable characters, give children an opportunity to exercise their imagination and include some adventure that would appeal to children.
3. The Right Book for the Right Age
There are no hard and fast rules that apply here and the best thing to do is to trust your instincts. Keep in mind your child’s interests and reading levels. After skimming the book yourself to check the pictures and general gist of the book, if you and your child are happy with it, go ahead and read it. The following can be considered when choosing books for different ages:
- Ages 0-2: Durable books with large, bright illustrations; features that appeal to their sense of touch such as fabric or textured books; big, bold words or short rhythmic sentences. Recommended: Allah is Al-Khaliq by Saba Ghazi Ameen, The Way to Jannah by Yasmin Mussa.
- Ages 3-5: Clear, engaging illustrations; characters that are similar in age or slightly older; animals, real or imaginary; plots that are simple, fun and fast-moving; stories about everyday life or events; stories that reinforce basic concepts such as letters, numbers, shapes and colours. Recommended: Ilyas and Duck Search for Allah by Omar Khawaja, Zak and His Good Intentions by J.Samia Mair.
- Ages 6-11: Clear, easy to read text; creative and appealing illustrations; stories that encourage discussion, appeal to the child’s interests or that address topics that can be difficult to explain; characters that the children can relate to. Recommended: Circle of Sandcastles by Mariam Al-Kalby, The Story of the Elephant by Hajera Memon.
- Ages 11+: Books that introduce new concepts, ideas or experiences; characters facing the same issues your child faces at this age; subjects that interest your child; biographies, historical stories, fact books and trivia. Recommended: The House of Ibn Kathir: The competition begins by Nazia Jalali, The Great Race to Sycamore St by J. Samia Mair.
Remember that a book does not need to be a bestseller or come highly recommended to be considered good. A good book is one that your child enjoys and that makes him/her want to read.
4. Make Sure They’re Fun To Read
The famous children’s book author, Roald Dahl, said:
“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers. To become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting. They should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”
Islam places a special significance on reading and gaining knowledge, therefore it is no coincidence that the first word revealed to the Prophet Muhammad was:
‘Read’! [Qur’an: Chapter 96, Verse 1].
Developing a love for reading in children will give them an advantage in learning and retaining information as they get older. May Allah help us to bond with our children in this way and make it easy for us to teach them about Him . By carefully choosing the right resources and creating a fun environment in which to learn and play, we can help them develop a love for Allah , His deen and our Prophet Muhammad , from a very young age, In sha Allah.
Are you seeking to develop your children into little readers or did you grow up in a household that appreciated books? What tips and tricks can you share to help others achieve this? Let’s aim to raise a generation of passionate readers, In sha Allah!