Alhamdulillah my pre-reading children love listening to their parents read stories – and they love listening good audio books too. At length, almost daily, my husband and I have repeatedly read their favourite books, including non-human-focussed picture books, like stories by Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne, Dr Suess, and Rev. W Awdry. Upon our children’s requests, we have become accustomed to keeping our fingers out of the way of the illustrations.
About a year ago I discovered Noor Kids, an animal-character Muslim picture book series. But it has taken me until recently to get around to actually buying a couple of their books. Masha’Allah I love their focus upon nurturing young Muslims’ positive identities through engagement with accessible, attractive and fun contemporary role models. However the stories about Noor Kids are delivered in a comic strip style and I had reservations about introducing this format too early – or at all – to young children.
I have now acquired Noor Kids Discover Patience and The Power of Prayer and my six and almost-five year old children love them masha’Allah. Both books contain two dynamic stories as well as pages for thought, reflection, and discussion of the stories’ themes, and various interactive activities including colouring. Stories in Noor Kids Discover Patience are rhyming and focus separately upon the two female characters, Shireen with Amira, and the two male characters, Amin with Asad, with little or no adult interference. Stories in the The Power of Prayer show us Shireen interacting with her brother and parents, and show Asad helping Amin. Masha’Allah all the stories show us character development by at least one Noor Kid who is seen to act, learn, and reflect.
A few years ago my then-toddler children adopted The Islamic Foundations’s ‘I Can’ series as favourites – a set of creative non-fiction board books that, like Noor Kids, is designed to nurture positive Muslim identities. I would love to see more of them and I contacted the publisher at that time with a submission of nine more titles but my manuscripts were eventually rejected.
Looking at the Noor Kids website, I am pleased to see that there are currently eight books available and that the series is expanding insha’Allah. My six year old is hopeful that Noor Kids characters will go on train and other adventures that he is interested in doing and reading about. I get the impression that he will not be disappointed insha’Allah.
We have already been pleased to apply one story to our daily life: we referenced Asad’s example of acting with patience in a little discussion I led when I failed to show patience with an accident a child caused. Alhamdulillah it gave me an easy opportunity to apologise and plan for a more positive future insha’Allah.
And I also think I will not be disappointed with Noor Kids books in terms of literacy.
My original reservations about introducing comic books were based upon perceiving the genre as inferior to strict prose and rhyming stories which I had witnessed enrich my children’s communication skills, vocabulary, and empathy. I may even have thought that comic books are all dumbed down like trade books. But I can now see that they have the potential to foster pre-reading skills.
Precisely because Noor Kids stories are displayed as comic strips my children need my fingers on the pages to point to characters as I read so they know which character is speaking. With these books my pre-reading children now request that adults do use their fingers to focus on important elements of literacy alhamdulilah.
Noor Kids books are targeted at children aged five to eight years old, and many children who are educated in institutions become aided and independent readers during these years. As a home educator, I am happy to delay reading.
My six year old has displayed almost-ready-to-read-himself abilities and interests, and he has started with Bob Books and his chosen Thomas reading books. For me, the early readers Thomas stories that are available are like the trade versions of WV Awdry’s stories – not very well constructed and better avoided. Also, neither myself nor my children are keen on the Thomas stories that are available in annuals and magazines – the ones that are written out with some nouns replaced by pictures so children can participate in the delivery of the story. None of my children like the role of simply naming the picture – experiencing relegation to a simple role that disrupts the flow of a story is hardly an attractive pre-reading ‘skill’, is it?
Bob Books are currently at rest in our household for a few weeks or months because my six year old’s resistance to my fingers on the page – to cover parts of words while he sounded out letters and phonemes – was increasing more than his interest in reading. He wanted to look anywhere but the page. He prefers relying on memory than phonics or word recognition at the moment. However he loves Noor Kids and wants my fingers on the page to point to the characters … so I am planning to incrementally increase pointing out literacy features like starting sounds, end-rhymes, and high-frequency words insha’Allah.
Usually my ‘big’ pre-Ramadan order of books is for Kube Publishing titles and titles they distribute. Insha’Allah this year I think my children want Noor Kids and I think I agree. The books focus on an American Muslim identity so I understand that I have to order from the US. However, insha’Allah I’d love to know about it if you hear of someone distributing Noor Kids stories in the UK.
Insha’Allah I’ll write more about our Noor Kids journey later in the year. Where is your family up to in yours?
I am the author of Religious Rhyme Time, an Abrahamic children’s interfaith book, as well as Islamic Nursery Rhymes. I love eating chocolate while I write, and, with strictly chocolate-free fingers, I also create Muslim and interfaith children’s gifts for book people at my Etsy shop, BarakahBedtimesUK.
I’m on Twitter @elizabethlymer.
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