Four Picture Books To Celebrate World Arabic Language Day

Tomorrow, December 18th, is World Arabic Language Day. Established in 2010 by the United Nations, this holiday is intended to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity.

Living in a world where people are ridiculed for their differences, and more specifically a country where languages other than English are often dismissed, I feel it is incredibly important to embrace and celebrate languages other than English. This is especially true for those who, like me, only speak one language.

Though I am not bilingual, I have always been thrilled to pick up words from other languages throughout my life. From my “adopted” babushka and dedushka who tried to teach me Russian in my 20’s, to members of my childhood church who gave me Vietnamese lessons, I have always been amazed at the joy of being able to speak to someone in their native tongue. Even if it’s a simple “xin chào” or “spasiba”, I could let the people I loved know they were seen and appreciated by using these words.

I want to encourage my son to have this same respect for all languages, even if he is only ever fluent in English. Because of this, I am always on the lookout for picture books that introduce young readers to new languages. Some of my favorites highlight the Arabic language, and I thought they would be the perfect books to share today!

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Deep In The Sahara by Kelly Cunnane, Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

In Deep In The Sahara we meet a young Arabic girl named Lalla who wants to wear a malafa (the colorful cloth worn by Muslim women in Mauritania) just like all the other women in her family. She talks to the women around her about how their malafa makes them beautiful, mysterious, traditional, or royal, but eventually learns the true reason they wear the malafa. This is a beautiful story of a young girl embracing the faith and traditions of her family. This book has a few Hassaniya (an Arabic dialect) words peppered throughout, which are a great way to teach young readers a new word or two!

Like The Moon Loves The Sky by Hena Khan, Illustrated by Saffa Khan

This beautifully illustrated book is a tender celebration of the unconditional love parents have for their children. Like The Moon Loves The Sky is inspired by the Quran, making it a great book for teaching religious acceptance while celebrating Arabic. The only Arabic word found in the book is “Inshallah” (translated to “if Allah wills” or “God willing”), but it is a beautiful introduction to the Arabic language none-the-less. This heartwarming book makes the perfect bedtime read, and a great gift for new parents.

The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil, Illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan

In The Arabic Quilt we meet Kanzi, who’s family has immigrated from Egypt. When Kanzi’s mom shows up at school one day to bring her kofta sandwich, Kanzi’s classmates don’t understand why her mother calls her habibti, and begin to tease Kanzi. That night she wraps up in her quilt from her teita (grandma) in Cairo and writes a poem. Her teacher finds the poem and allows Kanzi to bring the quilt in, inspiring the classroom to make an Arabic quilt of their own. This is a great story to encourage young readers to be curious about languages they don’t speak, and respectful of those who speak those languages.

Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford

Silent Music is the story of a young boy named Ali who lives in Baghdad. Ali loves calligraphy and looks up to Yaqut al-Musta’simi, a famous calligrapher who is also from Baghdad. With illustrations depicting Ali’s beautiful Arabic calligraphy strung together like musical notes, this book is a stunning celebration of the written Arabic language.

I hope you enjoyed this list! If you would like to learn more about World Arabic Language Day, be sure to visit the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s website for more information!

What are your some of you favorite children’s books highlighting Arabic or other languages foreign to you? Be sure to share them in the comments below!

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Eight Children’s Books For The Eight Nights of Hanukkah

As families across the world prepare to begin their Hanukkah celebrations tonight, I have to be honest with you all: I didn’t know actually the meaning behind Hanukkah until recently. I realized this when someone I know told me they thought Hanukkah had something to do with Hitler, and though I was 99.9% sure they were wrong, I hadn’t educated myself enough to explain their error. Obviously, I realized I had a problem, and so I began to educate myself. As I learned of the history of the Maccabean Revolt and the traditions surrounding this holiday, I realized how important it is to expose our children to holidays that we don’t celebrate.

Though I am not Jewish, I believe it’s important to give our children an understanding of holidays and celebrations that other children in their lives may be taking part in. They will be better equipped to understand and accept classmates, cousins, and playdate partners with different religious upbringings when they have been exposed to these holidays and celebrations in their own homes. They will also be better equipped to correct misinformation than I was in my situation.

These eight books all offer great explanations behind Hanukkah traditions and history, giving young readers an understanding of what the holidays might look like in other homes. Any one of them would be great for any family celebrating Hanukkah, or for families who want to introduce their children to The Festival of Lights.

Antlers With Candles by Chris Barash, Illustrated by Melissa Iwai

In Antlers With Candles we follow a little boy on his first Hanukkah. He doesn’t quite understand all the curious objects he discovers around his home. His dad discovers the mess he has made and cleans up while explaining what the menorah, latkes, and dreidels are all for. This is the perfect introduction to Hanukkah for babies and toddlers!

Queen of The Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg, Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar

Told from the perspective of the older brother in a multi-cultural family, Queen of The Hanukkah Dosas is a charming tale of one family’s Hanukkah celebration. Because their mom is Indian and their father is Jewish, this family eats dosas (rice pancakes) every year instead of latkes. The little sister Sadie won’t stop climbing up on everything as the family prepares to celebrate, but her antics might just save the day when the family finds themselves in an unexpected situation. I also love that this book has a recipe for both latkes and dosas in the back. Who doesn’t love learning about different cultures through foods?

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Mark Teague

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How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah is a fantastic book for children who are curious about the holiday. Following the format of this familiar series, we see all the wrong ways to say “Happy Chanukah” (followed by the right ways, of course) demonstrated by all kinds of dinosaurs. I love this series for discussing acceptable behavior with little ones, because we have examples of dinosaurs behaving badly. Those dinosaurs always come around and behave themselves in the end though. A great introduction to the activities and traditions of Chanukah for any little one, but especially those that love Dinosaurs.

Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster, Illustrated by Sue Eastland

Little Red Ruthie is an adorable retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a Hanukkah twist. Little Red Ruthie is headed to Bubbe Basha’s house to make latkes, but she gets lost in the snowfall on her way. A wolf finds Ruthie and wants to eat her for dinner. Ruthie thinks fast and explains that it’s the first day of Hanukkah, and she will make a much better meal if the wolf just waits eight days. The wolf agrees, but changes his mind and decides to eat both Ruthie and her grandma. Ruthie outsmarts him again while teaching him a bit about Hanukkah along the way. There is a recipe for Ruthie’s Potato Latkes included at the end!

Hanukkah Hamster by Michelle Markel, Illustrated by Andre Ceolin

Hanukkah Hamster is a heartwarming picture book about Edgar, a cab driver who has recently moved away from his home in Israel, leaving his family behind. Edgar finds a hamster in his cab and can’t seem to find its owner. He takes the hamster home and feeds it, eventually naming him Chickpea. Edgar and Chickpea celebrate several night of Hanukkah together until Edgar recognizes the customer who lost Chickpea. I won’t spoil it, but I will just say this one has a happy ending. I love that this book reminds us that we can find companionship in the most unexpected places.

Jeremy’s Dreidel by Ellie Gellman, Illustrated by Maria Mola

In Jeremy’s Dreidel, we meet Jeremy and his friends who are building dreidels at their local JCC (Jewish Community Center). Jeremy wants to build a Braille dreidel for his father, who is blind. Jeremy educates the children about his fathers disability and provides great examples of what a blind person’s everyday life looks like. A Hanukkah lesson is also woven into the children’s narrative. There are also instructions to build some of the dreidels mentioned in the story included in the back of the book. This is a sweet book with great disabled and Jewish representation.

Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown, Illustrated by Stacey Schuett

Hannukah in Alaska is a funny Hanukkah story about how different things can look in Alaska sometimes. Our main character is not feeling excited about celebrating Hanukkah this year. It might just be because there is a moose in her backyard, and she’s worried he will break her swing. One night, things turn around when her mom and dad wake her up in the middle of the night for a beautiful surprise. She is so inspired that she comes up with a clever solution to their big moose problem. This is a perfect winter read, but especially fitting for Hanukkah of course.

The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman Illustrated by Galia Bernstein

We all know about the eight nights of Hanukkah, but have you heard about the Eight Knights of Hanukkah? In this adorable picture book a dragon named Dreadful is ruining the Hanukkah festivities! Lady Sadie ask the Eight Knights of Hanukkah to stop the dragon with “deeds of awesome kindness and stupendous bravery”. There is also instructions on how to play the dreidel game in the back.

I hope these titles help you and your family learn a little more about Hanukkah celebrations, and have a little fun along the way!

Has your family read any of these titles? What books do you read to celebrate or educate your family about Hanukkah? Don’t forget to comment below and share!

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5 Picture Books for World Kindness Day

I think we can all agree that the world could always use a little more kindness. In 1998, World Kindness Day was established as part of the World Kindness Movement. This is an international holiday dedicated to spreading kindness. We all know there are TONS of children’s books on the subject, but I thought I would take a moment today to share a few of my favorites. Please note: This article contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made using these links. This commission allows me to maintain this website and continue posting reviews.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Those of you who know me well know that when I’m not hoarding books, I’m hoarding yarn. This sweet picture book brings those two loves together for me. (Though technically, I crochet, because I’m not a skilled knitter at all.) In this book, we follow Sophia and her neighbor, Mrs. Goldman, who teaches her about mitzvahs when she is knitting hats for others. Sophia takes the lesson to heart and decides to make a hat for Mrs. Goldman. The illustrations are as warm as the story. Altogether, a cute read reminding us how rewarding it is to be generous.

Thank You Omu by Oge Mora

Thank You Omu was a fast favorite for me. The illustrations drew me in and the story got me, hook, line, and sinker. In this book we meet Omu, an older lady who is cooking a big pot of red stew. Her stew smells so good that everyone in the neighborhood comes by to ask her for a bowl. Omu is kind and gives them all stew until she has none left for her own dinner. Of course, that’s not where our story ends, but I don’t want to give it away. This one is a great story about gratitude and the rewards we reap when we are kind and generous.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët

I Walk With Vanessa is a wordless picture book. My favorite thing about this book is that children are able to narrate the story themselves. This format is perfect for those little readers just learning to read, because it encourages reading without the pressure of all those tricky words. In this book, the illustrations show Vanessa, a young girl who is moving to a new neighborhood. We see a boy who isn’t nice to Vanessa. Another girl notices this interaction and decides to do something about it. This is a sweet book about standing up for others and the power of kindness in communities.

Kindness Makes Us Strong is the perfect board book for introducing little ones to the concept of kindness. Sophie Beer is one of my favorite illustrators because her work is always absolutely adorable AND incredibly inclusive. In this book, there are children with lots of different skin tones and abilities, all providing examples of what it means to be kind. A favorite in our family, I recommend this one to anyone looking for board books.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

This picture book handles many themes, including teasing, embarrassment, poverty, and (of course) kindness. This may seem like a lot for one picture book, but Boelts manages to blend these themes seamlessly. In this story, we meet Jeremy, a boy who wants the shoes everyone else is wearing, but his family cannot afford them. He is so determined that he finds a pair at a thrift store and buys them even though they don’t fit. This gives Jeremy the opportunity to do something nice for someone less fortunate than him.

I hope you all enjoyed my top five picks for World Kindess Day this year. Have you read any of them? What are some of your favorite books about kindness to read to your little ones? Leave a comment and let me know!

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