As a mother of three young children and an early childhood educator, I’m always looking for ways to help my charges learn about other cultures and traditions from around the world, as well as explore their own heritage. I’m fortunate to live in an area where my kids see faces of many colors everyday, and nothing warms my heart quite like seeing a group of children from different backgrounds bonding and playing together. But no matter where you live, reading a wide variety of books about different experiences can help your little ones grow up to be open-minded citizens who are accepting of others.
Ramadan is one of the most important times of year for Muslims, a holy month of fasting, prayer, and introspection that’s meant to help believers strengthen their faith, self-control, gratitude, and compassion for the less fortunate. Children are exempt from fasting, but they can engage in introspection and cultivate these same qualities through thoughtful shared reading, including sharing Ramadan books for kids. (Note that Ramadan is celebrated in the ninth month of the Islamic year, which is slightly shorter than our Western calendar, meaning the event happens at a different time each year.)
For me, reading to my children about Muslim traditions is a way of teaching them part of their cultural heritage. But reading books that tell about different cultural celebrations is also one of my favorite ways to celebrate our society’s rainbow of diversity. Families from all religious backgrounds can enjoy the following Ramadan books for kids while gaining understanding of why this time of year is so important for Muslim families around the globe.
Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle
by Reza Jalali, illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien
When Shirin sees the new moon, she is excited for Ramadan to begin. Now that she is nine, she thinks she is old enough to fast all day with her family, but her parents think she is still too young and so she feels left out. By talking with her grandmother, she learns another way to be part of Ramadan and enjoy the closeness of her family time.
This beautiful story tells of how Yasmeen, a young Pakistani-American girl, celebrates Ramadan, “The night of the Moon,” and Eid. Showing both modern and traditional Muslim culture, the reader sees how traditions change with time.
A young girl who is ready for her first fasting Ramadan has just moved to a new country and is adjusting to her new school. The teachers and librarian offer their assistance and help her make new friends. The illustrations are rich in decorative touches and patterns, making for a wonderful read-aloud for elementary students. Winner of several honors, this is a worthwhile choice for your diverse home library.
A picture book set in Kuwait, this title features a young girl, Noor. It details another part of Ramadan that is celebrated in some cultures of the Arabian Gulf: Girgian. This is a mid-Ramadan celebration that occurs during the day before the full moon, the day of the full moon, and the day after the full moon. Children go from house to house collecting treats from their neighbors and enjoy spending time with family and friends.
This book is set in India and features Maya, Neel, and their pet squirrel, Chintu, on an adventure during Ramadan. With fun illustrations, this book will be attractive to young children and an exciting read. The cultural aspects of the festival are detailed throughout the book, which also celebrates the importance of gratitude and helping others in need. If your children enjoy this book, it is part of a series featuring Chintu the squirrel that aims to help raise multicultural children and connect children to their roots.
This is a book that introduces young elementary-age students to a diversity of classmates and their favorite holidays. One child, Musa, shares Eid with the class and they all celebrate together. Other students share Rosh Hashanah, Christmas, Las Posadas, and Pi Day with the whole class. This book highlights the values of friendship and diversity. Colorful pictures showing children of all skin tones reinforces that idea and make for a visually fun experience.
Here is a book about Ramadan with the familiar round-faced characters that many of us recognize from the popular young children’s author Karen Katz. The main characters are lighter skinned and in the second half of the book we see faces of many colors and many types of traditional dress. The family goes about its Ramadan traditions and several Muslim words are accompanied by their phonetic spelling, helping the reader pronounce potentially new words, correctly. Overall I found this is a cute introductory book for younger children new to learning about Muslim holidays.
This is one of my favorites for its festive tone and playful, colorful illustrations. Families of many cultural backgrounds are portrayed wearing colorful clothing and smiling throughout the story. Children will see many types of families, including those of mixed background. This is in board book format and particularly well adapted for toddlers and preschoolers. It spends a few pages talking about the ways that Muslims celebrate beyond just fasting, such as spending time with family and doing good deeds to help others. The beautiful night-sky illustrations are special and will make a lasting impression.
Carlene Murray is a mother of three, forest school director, and long-time early-childhood educator who holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, along with numerous certifications and coursework in child development, education, and environmental education. Find her at alwayslearningandgrowing.com.