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Helping Kids Understand Afghanistan


What’s behind the veil? Washington author Trent Reedy has crafted a powerful book that gives middle grade readers an inside look into the daily life of Afghan girls.

I don’t want to give any secrets away, but Zulaikha, the main character in Reedy’s book Words in the Dust uses her chador to hide a clef palate, a birth defect that is likely to ruin her life as a young Afghan teenager. Nobody will want to marry her and she’ll be at her stepmother’s mercy for the rest of her life. Zulaikha’s older sister Zeynab seems to have a better fate because she is so beautiful, but both girls are trapped in a society dominated by patriarchy and oppression.

My kids and I have been reading a lot of books about Islam this month and Words in the Dust is one of my favorites.  What makes it even more heart wrenching is that Zulaikha and Zeynab are based on real life people Reedy met while serving in Afghanistan. In the Author’s Note, Reedy describes how National Guardsman pooled their money together to arrange surgery for a young girl named Zulaikha who had a clef palate. Helping her wasn’t even part of their mission, but the Americans did it anyway.

Words in the Dust is a book that is very difficult to put down. My son stayed up until midnight to finish reading it.

I sincerely hope that teachers across America bring this book into their classrooms. It would provide rich text for meaningful discussions.

Teaching kids about Islam


Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to make a coffee table book display of all of the wonderful children’s books about Islam I’ve collected.  Just because I’m Christian  doesn’t mean I want my children to grow up ignorant about other religions! 

In my “I Brake for Moms” column last Sunday called Ramadan is an opportunity to learn about Islam I mentioned three special children’s books:

Here are a few more books that we own, that I didn’t mention in my column:

Hopefully I’ll find time to review those soon!

P.S. If you’re interested in finding even more books about Islam for children, the author Rukhsana Khan has a wonderful list of “vetted” books:


Muslim Child

Reading Behind the Veils of Yemen last weekend has inspired me to pull down Muslim Child: Understanding Islam Through Stories and Poems by Rukhsana Khan to read with Bruce(6) at bedtime.

I thought that for your average American I knew a decent amount about tIslam but three chapters into Muslim Child I am realizing how ignorant I am.  For example, I knew that prayer was one of the five pillars of Islam but I did not know that the first prayer, or Fajr, had to be done before sunrise.  So at certain points in the year this can mean waking your whole family up at 4:30 AM, washing, praying, and then going back to bed.  That really teaches kids about discipline and commitment!  Another story we read was about a girl who was grown up enough to try fasting for Ramadan for the first time.  It really made Bruce and I both think about growing up, taking on new responsibility, and perseverance.

I am really excited to be reading this book with Bruce right now, and someday with Jenna(2) too, because I want both of them to have understanding about the other people and faiths in the world around them.  I want Bruce and Jenna to think about how other people think, in order to better form their own opinions and beliefs.   I also want them to have kindness and understanding for their neighbors, and an appreciation for morality in every culture.