Anyone who knows me will know that I love books. I have wall to wall bookcases filled with books both at home and at my education centre. I teach children to read and I read books every day to my students. I want them to love reading as much as I do.
How to Read to One and Two Year Olds
When my eldest was two years old I would read books to him at bedtime. There weren't that many Islamic children's books in those days especially for really young children. At two years of age, children's attention span is short so books with too many words aren't ideal. Sometimes if the books had too many words then I would show my son the picture on the page and rephrase.
Children at this age of development like to label things. If it was a picture of a sun, you'd say "Sun! That's the sun. It's yellow. It's very hot." Have you noticed that baby books would have one bright picture on one page, and sometimes with one word to label it? When you are labeling things and talk about it then you are teaching your child to use language.
During the day I would read baby books to my young children but at night time, I wanted the bedtime stories to be Islamic ones. The first Islamic books I read to my children at this age were about Allah the Creator: Allah created the sun, Allah created the cats, Allah created the apples...you get the idea.
Some books that I used (and still do for my young students) were 'Inside and Under the World of Wonder' by E. Loucman, 'Allah Made Them All' published by Goodwordkidz, 'Animals' and 'The Food We Eat' by Farah Sardar.
Reading Together During the Preschool Years
By three years of age, my children were ready for stories, although they needed to be really short stories to begin with. As they grew to four and five years old their attention for longer stories also grew.
At bedtime, I would read or rephrase the stories of the Prophets or stories from the Qur'an. I have found that the books that were available to me were very wordy or the words weren't worded appropriately so I had to rephrase some of it. Even so, I used Goodwordkidz set of Quran Stories for Kids.
Each of these books contain about twelve stories so as we finished each book I would cycle through the whole series again during my children's preschool years. Children love to listen to their favourite stories again and again so don't be afraid to reread any books that your children like. When you do this they will memorise the story as in my children's case they've memorised the Prophet's stories.
Still Reading Together During the Early School Years
As my children entered school they could begin to read simple stories by themselves but their level of reading is not at their level of listening. Researchers have recommended that children should be read to at a level that is two to three times above their reading level. This will help them to develop their vocabulary and comprehension. It also models to them story structure.
'Hilmy the Hippo' series by Rae Norridge was a great favourite with my children. The stories are longer and each book taught them about an aspect of Islam such as not being vain, to be grateful to Allah and how to share. The illustrations are much better in quality than previous books that we've had and over all it was a really lovely set of books.
'The Twins and the Mystery of...' set of books by Sajda Nazlee was another set of longer story picture books that my children enjoyed. The stories were exciting because the characters were having adventures and solving mysteries. Each book continues to teach children about an aspect of Islam that is interwoven into the story.
Chapter Books For Seven and Eight Year Olds
When I began to introduce chapter books to my children's bedtime stories I would read them one or two chapters a night, depending on how long the chapters were. Before I began to read a new chapter I would either do a recap of the previous chapter or ask them to do a summary just to refresh their memory.
'Ibrahim Khan and the Mystery...' set of books by Farheen Khan were the shorter chapter books that I've read. Next came 'Rashid and the...' set of books by Hassan Radwan which were getting longer but not as long as the 'Invincible Abdullah' set of four books by Uthman Hutchinson. To my mind, Invincible Abdullah is a lot like the Tintin adventures with an Islamic outlook, which my children enjoyed although they were geared towards older children.
You might have noticed that the longer chapter books are based on boy's adventures, and yes my children are boys and they thoroughly enjoyed these books. At this stage, they wouldn't have enjoyed books about hijab and princesses. I admit that I do have the set of Muslim Princesses books that I read to my prekinders, and both the girls and boys are always thoroughly engrossed in the stories.
These are some of the books that I've read to my children and recommend. I could recommend more because I have a lot more books but that would make this post very long. So, insha Allah, I will save them for another time.