With the beautiful Spring UK weather lately – nicely timed with school holiday time – our indoor reading slots have been a lot smaller than usual. I hope those of you who celebrated Sinalese New Year and Vaisakhi experienced good festivals. Am I right in imagining that the most memorable celebrations were outdoors?
Having recently introduced my young Muslim children to a number of festivals I observed a need for some hiatus from discussing diverse religious occasions. One child particularly expressed a need for more time to digest information and relate it to his autonomous self when he defensively asserted that, “Muslims don’t have festivals. Eid isn’t a festival, it’s a celebration.”
So I decided to embrace the festival of Sinhalese New Year with merely a brief mention of it after reading a bilingual picture book written in English and Sinhala. My children saw the shapes of Sinhala letters and remarked on similarities with letter shapes they have previously encountered.
Am I Small? turned out to be a very enjoyable read and a way to chat about relativity and perspective in terms of size and nearness. We witnessed the protagonist, Tamia, take positive ownership of all her varying sizes in relation to others and then conclude that she is ‘Right! Exactly!’
We have read the book several times in the space of hours. It is short and repetitive so can easily be memorised. It could provide a useful source of reference when stressing the value of ourselves and of every individual and group of people – whether people belong to local or global minorities, majorities, or everything in between.
We also flicked through a non-fiction book about Vaisakhi: Celebrations and Birth of the Khalsa. I read a little about harvest-time Bhangra folk dancing, of which my children are fond and I very briefly summarised the birth of the first five Khalsas (pure ones).
Regarding this story, I felt protective of my young children in sharing a story about people declaring their willingness to die for their faith and onlookers assuming they had indeed been beheaded. When I was young I found notions of volunteering to die as a demonstration of loyalty to faith or country very disturbing – and I still do.
The book is aimed at older, junior children, perhaps age eight and over, but I think I would prefer to delay properly relating the story until children reach double figures. Author Parveen Kaur Dhillon kindly directed me to some beautiful children’s Sikh resources and I have got My First Kaur and Singh Books which I intend to blog about later in the year insha’Allah (God willing).
Next on my calendar is Earth Day, 22 April. Perhaps I can guide my children to return to Vaisakhi by alluding to harvest time in India while we are busy planting in the UK. Perhaps Am I Small? will provide a reference when we discuss the value of all Earth’s creatures, big, small, numerous, few, near, and far. They have been consistently interested in nature and animals, and love growing plants and growing-related books, so I am looking forward to it. Do you think the beautiful Spring weather will remain for reading and storytelling outdoors?
Elizabeth Lymer is the author of Religious Rhyme Time, an Abrahamic children’s interfaith book, as well as Islamic Nursery Rhymes. She loves eating chocolate while she writes, and, with strictly chocolate-free fingers, she also creates Muslim and interfaith children’s gifts for book people at her Etsy shop, BarakahBedtimesUK. She’s on Twitter @elizabethlymer.