One of my goals as a parent is to help my kids become aware of the many religions an cultures around the world. We’ve learned a lot about Chinese New Year, Diwali, Day of the Dead… but hadn’t focused on Ramadan or Eid yet. When my daughter came and told us her friends were talking about their families fasting, asking what a “fast” was, it was a great time to do some research. My strategy to get started was asking friends how they celebrate, and reading some children’s books about Ramadan. The children’s books about Ramadan we chose are the perfect introduction to Eid, one of the most important Muslim holidays.
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The Muslim holiday of Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, reading the Qur’an, and charity. Islam uses a lunar calendar (based on the moon), and Ramadan falls on the first new moon of the ninth month; historically, this is when the Qur’an was first revealed to Muhammad. For one month, from dawn until dusk, people fast (refrain from eating and drinking) in order to develop self-discipline and increasing awareness and empathy for the poor. At the end of the month, families and friends celebrate “The Breaking of the Fast,” known as Eid-ul-Fitr. Families pray at the mosque, thank God for sending them the Qur’an, and have special parties with new clothes, gifts, and delicious food.
Books about Ramadan that teach us about families celebrating Eid
The White Nights of Ramadan by Maha Addasi. This short book is a wonderful learning tool about the festival Girgian, the night of the full moon in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. The beautiful illustrations show a Muslim family in the Arabian Gulf States (possibly Kuwait, where Ms Addasi is from) getting ready for the festival. Sprinkled with Arabic words, the author describes in simple text how the children prepare for the event by making candy out of pistachios and honey, prepare their bags (in which to collect candy from their neighbors), and dress in white dishdashas (for the boys) and colorful dresses (for the girls). They eagerly wait for the sun to set, break their fast at iftar, and then set off with special Ramadan lanterns- fanouses– to sing and collect candy from the neighbors. When Noor and her family returns home, she is reminded that the true meaning of Ramadan is spending time with family and sharing with those less fortunate; she and her grandfather walk to the mosque to deliver a basket of food for the poor.
Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle by Reza Jalali. This slightly longer story about Ramadan tells the story of a Muslim-American family. 9 year old Shirin wants to participate in fasting like her older brother Ali, but is told she must wait a few more years. When Shirin catches Ali sneaking food, she puts her sibling rivalry aside and decides not to tattle on him. Through her good deeds, her prayers, and her part-time fasting, she is able to feel more a part of this celebration while learning about the true meaning. Bits of culture and traditions are woven throughout the story and its illustrations, and students see how Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims in the US.
Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams. This funny, colorful tale was instantly loved by my kids, and would be a wonderful story to read to preschoolers through 2nd grade. Nabeel is a shoe-maker who is very busy preparing for Eid, the celebration to end the fast at the end of the month of Ramadan. He generously decides to buy each of his family members new clothes to wear for the celebration: a burqa for his wife, a dupatta for his mother, bangles for this daughter, and a pair of pants for himself. The pants are “4 fingers too long” and so he asks each of his family members to help him to shorten them- though each respond that they are too busy. He shortens them himself, and secretly so does his wife, mother, and daughter! In the end discover the surprise “shorts” and have a good laugh while they fix them for their beloved Nabeel.