Back in November, Ashfaq Taufique from the Birmingham Islamic Society (BIS), told me about BIS’s Story Time at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School and how they’d like Bham Now to do a piece about the event. I’ve written several pieces about the importance of Jewish and Muslim solidarity in Birmingham. This was the story I was born to cover.
But sometimes, you have to wait.
Sometimes you’re just not ready to do something. You might think you are, but something puts you on hold. You get a surprise, like, the only substitute available on the day of an event calls in with a family emergency and there’s no way sticking your students in another class for the day is gonna fly. You’ll let the guilt pile up, but you’ll also watch the world change, you’ll change. And when you are ready to do that something, it’s more meaningful.
This isn’t about politics. This is about simply teaching us how to get along. And about the importance of experience.
Story Time is a monthly event. December’s Story Time was held at BIS on a Wednesday night. When I walked into the room, the storyteller, Kirin Nabi, stood by a table covered in picture books and stickers. Her background as a librarian was evident in her display prowess and her ability to control a crowd of children without raising her voice. She greeted me with a hug and told me to sit anywhere. The propped up books, the fluffy red carpet, the kids sitting cross-legged in a cluster, trying to determine the best angle to turn in to see the pictures, and I was back in 2nd grade, waiting for the elementary school librarian to introduce the new Caldecott winner. It’s a warm memory, I’m sure I’m not alone in my nostalgia.
Story Time is a thematic event, each month focuses on a particular issue or life skill. This month was about problem solving. Each book was read with an appropriately dramatic flair. The kids laughed as they leaned in to get a closer look at the illustrations. After each story, Ms. Nabi lead a short discussion about the book. What was the problem to book presented? How did the protagonist handle the problem? Did it solve the problem, or just hide it? What types of problems are there? Ms. Nabi was asking the kids these questions, but the adults nodded their heads in contemplation as well. She is warm, she is funny, she is incredibly gifted at what she does.
I had seen pictures from Friendship Story Walk, the event at the Day School. There was a very good turn out. The story, “Do Unto Otters,” was interactive, being told via crafts and activities. Laurie Keller’s Otter series deals with the importance of communicating with those who are different from us, understanding and celebrating those differences, and the ways we can show each other respect.
The event also had snacks, and parents were encouraged to bring along non-perishable foods to donate at the door.
Mr. Taufique’s goal for future events is to pair with “churches, parochial schools, homeschooling administrators, etc, would like to follow suit and have joint storytelling with the Islamic Center. This will go a long way in promoting understanding.” BIS often partners with local religious groups and charities to do service projects and community building, like their recent coat drive with Holy Family Cristo Rey High School in Ensley.
I’ve written before about being a fan of Mr. Taufique. I know that leaves me with a major bias, but I say, only because it’s true, Mr. Taufique and the community he represents are unsung heroes of the city of Birmingham, doing so much good with very little publicity or recognition outside of a few Facebook posts.
When I contacted Mr. Taufique about proceeding with an article about an event that, in journalism time, had happened in the ancient past, he simply responded that he knew things would work out, that he hoped everything was okay, and that there was a spot for me on that fluffy red carpet for the next Story Time.
Children’s books have always played a central role in the way we interact with the world. Whether you are the one being read to, the one reading with a child on your lap, or a group of kids on the floor, trying to absorb as much of the book’s art as possible, these are the stories that put our problems, our beliefs, our prejudices, into the simplest terms and makes us exam them in ways that are sometimes difficult for us to produce on our own.
Ms. Nabi is currently working on bringing a Little Free Library to BIS. She also keeps a Pinterest board updated as her own virtual library. Her book choices range from Islamic to secular, serious to silly, and focus on diversity, identity, courage to do what’s right, and critical thinking.
Here is a list of the books from December’s Problem Solving Story Time:
Story Time at HCIC is Back by Kirin Nabi
September’s theme was Love and stories about our love of Allah, Allah’s love of us, familial love and silly object love were included. We read: Zaydo Potato: Allah Loves Me, Mikaeel and Malaika The Quest for Love, There is Greatness in Me, I Promise, Little Brother for Sale, and Allana’s Bananas. We also did a felt board story and a craft about things we love.
Story Time themes are announced before-hand, and include an activity. Usually the duration is about 45 minutes either starting or ending with Salat-ul Maghrib. Parents need to accompany their children, but registration is not required.
So, please keep an eye out for the flyers, Facebook event notifications, and BIS emails to know when the next one is, and please come. Feel free to bring a friend too, everyone is welcome.
Ramadan Story Time Recap by Kirin Nabi
Held at HCIC, the stories and activities were geared for children ages 2-6 and parents were asked to register so we could ensure enough supplies. This, the third year of the program, we tried to change it up a bit to keep kids interested.
The first week we read stories about the Ramadan Moon and then made our own Mr. Ramadan Moons to hide and find throughout the month.
The second week we read Ramadan Around the World in the activity room and set up activities from three of the countries for the kids to rotate through. They explored making tortillas in Mexico, making sadaqa jars in Texas, and making puppets like in Turkey.
The third week we read stories, played a huge game of pass the parcel and dipped pretzels in chocolate. The final week we read a story about helping the less fortunate in Ramadan and then made over 40 lunches for the homeless. We concluded with a story about Eid while munching on a snack.
Alhumdulillah, all four weeks began at 12 and concluded with salat ul thuhr in jammat.
Little Free Library at HCIC by Kirin Nabi
Have you seen the little white masjid with the golden dome as you leave the HCIC and wondered what it is? It’s a Little Free Library (LFL) and it really is what it says it is. You can take a book if you see one you like, you can leave books for others, and if you don’t have one to leave right away, that is ok, you can return the one you took when you are done reading it, or you can donate one later. You can even decorate a rock at home and put it at the base, the library belongs to us all.
Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home (McGill-Franzen & Allington, 2009). Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds. While we have wonderful libraries here in Birmingham, sometimes it might be hard to get to them, so inshaAllah, our own LFL will help bridge the gap.
All books are welcome, as long as they are not deliberately disrespectful, unIslamic or in disrepair. Many of the books are stamped, to avoid people trying to resell them at second hand shops and deprive others of the Little Free Library experience. So, stop by, browse, take a book, spread the word, and enjoy. The library is open to everyone, and inshaAllah the more it is used, the more baraka it will bring.
Story Time: Hajj and Eid al Adha
Our monthly children’s story time resumed on August 29 at the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center after a summer break. The theme was “Hajj and Eid-ul Adha”. Sr. Kirin Nabi, our talented storyteller, read the following books to the children:
- Zaahir & Jameel the Camel: Hajj
- A Little Tree Goes for Hajj
- Hamza Learns About Eid ul Adha
Sr. Kirin kept the children engaged with questions, a Hajj song, and a game with Hajj-related actions that had the children running around and having fun. Alhamdulillah we had a large crowd of new and old faces at this month’s story time.
We hope to see everyone at our next story time scheduled for Wednesday, September 27 at 5:45 PM at HCIC, insha’Allah. This month’s theme will be “Jannah”.
Ramadan Storytime and Crafts by Sakeena Ahmed
Alhamdulillah, we completed a successful and fun, second year of Ramadan Story and Craft times for our children. Children under 10 and their mothers met every Thursday in Ramadan for Dhuhr at the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center, before listening to stories and participating in a craft. Each week had a theme related to a different aspect of Ramadan.
- Week 1 – Introduction to Ramadan themed books with “shrinky dink” handprint magnets
- Week 2 – Moon stories with fun thaumatropes with moon and star shapes
- Week 3 – Drum theme with toy drums. The kids loved making this craft the most and some said they would be using it to wake their parents up for sahour each morning.
- Week 4 – Eid theme with Eid treats of dipping pretzels in chocolate and decorating them with sprinkles.
There was a regular crowd of over 30 children each week, as we made new friends and shared our love of Ramadan with each other. Insha’Allah, we plan to resume our monthly story time for children. Stay tuned for details in the coming weeks!
BIS Family Fun Night by Aser Janjua
On October 31, 2018, BIS held a Family Fun Night as a Halloween alternative for the community to gather and learn, all while doing fun activities for ages 3-11.
We had engaging topics and activities for the event. For the girls and boys ages 7-11,there was a talk in the prayer area on the topic, “The difference between winners and losers according to Islam” and for the younger children, there were stories, activities and crafts focused around Prophet Yunus (AS) and the whale.
Sr. Kirin read beautiful books for the kids and had an activity to memorize the dua of Prophet Yunus (AS), as well as a cute whale souvenir to take home with them to remember what they had learned that day. Sr. Sakeena arranged a craft to make whales with paper, straw and ping pong balls to show how the whales blow through their blowhole.
At the end, the kids got to measure themselves, to compare their size to the size of a baby whale to get an idea of how big a whale can be with Sr. Aser.
Food was sold outside and the event concluded with salat al Isha and the announcing of the essay winners (see article regarding essay winners for a list of winners and their winning essays).
Alhamdulillah it is good to offer other options for the Muslim community to avoid participating in non-Islamic holidays, such as Halloween. Volunteers are always needed to organize such events. Please contact the BIS office if you are interested to help out in future events.
Family Fun Night at HCIC by Bushra Habeeb pictures by Aser Janjua
The Birmingham Islamic Society hosted its annual Family Fun Night, an alternative for Halloween on October 31, 2017.
The Family Fun Night was planned and organized with separate activities running simultaneously for ages 3-6 years, 7-10 years, and 11+ years. Free halal KFC was served for dinner and Urban Pops were available for purchase.
The evening started with Maghrib and followed shortly after with a story time by Sr. Kirin Nabi for the younger crowd. She introduced the little audience to her puppet friend “Deen-O.” Together, the children with the help of some fun children’s Islamic books, taught Deen-O about Islam and its principles; Deen-O even took Shahada with our energetic crowd too, Alhumdulillah!
The kids were then headed towards three creative craft booths, planned and organized by Sr. Sakeena Ahmed and other volunteers, where they enjoyed creating some lovely Islamic themed crafts and played a fun game.