One Green Apple, Eve Bunting, teaching kids children about Islam, Middle East, Arabic world, Arabs,, Pragmatic Mom, PragmaticMom

How To: Teach Your Children About Islam (and tolerance in the process!)

Teaching Kids about World Religions Particularly Islam

Talk about understanding our differences!  We have this program at our elementary school that is run by parent volunteers and it’s really excellent.  The content varies from year to year but includes Spectrum Disorders, Physical Disabilities and the like.  But then I got to thinking, we Americans tend to perceive those from the Arab world as potential threats.  This isn’t too different from WWII, when Japanese Americans were perceived as threats and thrown into internment camps (a point of reference that is very personal to me as my mother was forcibly relocated).

With standardized tests looming large and budget cutbacks cutting school budgets to the bone, can we really expect our educational system to teach our children tolerance and understanding?  Probably not.  Perhaps it is best brought up at home, with these books and references to help build a bridge of understanding.  This list of excellent materials is courtesy School Library Journal.  The article is intended for teachers but you can read it in its entirety here.

I am also including some books — I have been working on a Top 10:  Arabic American Children’s Books but am still searching for ten really good ones, so here is what I have so far!


Resources for Teaching About Islam

Luckily, you can find a lot more material online today than in recent years. Many organizations offer K-12 curricular guides, and while it’s still a challenge to find content for younger grades, these re-sources are a good place to start:

Elementary School

Access Islam
Ten multimedia lessons for grades 4-8 about Islamic holidays, traditions, and cultures, from Ramadan to the Quran.

Children’s Book Study Guides: The Librarian of Basra and Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq
Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility
A way to introduce the Iraq war to younger children by discussing the Library of Basra that burned.

Information on Islam
Woodland Junior School, Kent, England
Offers simple history questions for younger students complete with photographs and a multi-faith calendar.

Middle School

Extra Credit study guide
Andrew Clements
Guidance for teachers to help students discuss the story of two sixth graders, a young girl in Illinois and a boy in Afghanistan, who become pen pals.

Geometry and Islam
Asia Society
A student activity that incorporates Islamic textiles and architecture.

Teaching on Controversial Issues:
Guidelines for Teachers

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility
A teacher guide to presenting complicated and potentially controversial subjects.

High School

NYC Muslim Community Center: Why there? Why not?
Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility
Background regarding the proposed mosque and community center, with guidelines for conducting a discussion with students.

Islam, Empire of Faith
PBS Educational Resources
The first of five lessons aimed at students in grades 6-12.

National Geographic
The World of Islam

National Geographic story on Islam, with links to online forums, bibliographies, Muslim organiza-tions, and a digital Quran.


These two books were suggested in the School Library Journal article for 5th Grade:

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis.  [chapter book, ages 9-12]  Blurb from

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana has rarely been outdoors. Barred from attending school, shopping at the market, or even playing in the streets of Kabul, the heroine of Deborah Ellis’s engrossing children’s novel The Breadwinner is trapped inside her family’s one-room home. That is, until the Taliban hauls away her father and Parvana realizes that it’s up to her to become the “breadwinner” and disguise herself as a boy to support her mother, two sisters, and baby brother. Set in the early years of the Taliban regime, this topical novel for middle readers explores the harsh realities of life for girls and women in modern-day Afghanistan. A political activist whose first book for children, Looking for X, dealt with poverty in Toronto, Ellis based The Breadwinner on the true-life stories of women in Afghan refugee camps.

In the wily Parvana, Ellis creates a character to whom North American children will have no difficulty relating. The daughter of university-educated parents, Parvana is thoroughly westernized in her outlook and responses. A pint-sized version of Offred from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Parvana conceals her critique of the repressive Muslim state behind the veil of her chador. Although the dialogue is occasionally stilted and the ending disappointingly sketchy, The Breadwinner is essential reading for any child curious about ordinary Afghans. Like so many books and movies on the subject, it is also eerily prophetic. “Maybe someone should drop a big bomb on the country and start again,” says a friend of Parvana’s. “‘They’ve tried that,’ Parvana said, ‘It only made things worse.'” (Ages 9 to 12) –Lisa Alward –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The Breadwinner, teaching children about Islam,, Pragmatic Mom

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements.  [chapter book, ages 9-12]  Blurb from School Library Journal:

Grade 4–7—A forced pen-pal exchange turns into an opportunity for real communication between Illinois sixth-grader Abby Carson and Sadeed Bayat, the best English-language student in his Afghan village. When Abby’s first letter arrives in Bahar-Lan, 11-year-old Sadeed is asked by the elders to compose his sister Amira’s reply; it isn’t proper for a boy and girl to correspond with one another. But soon Sadeed can’t resist telling Abby that it is he who has been writing to her. The third-person narrative alternates points of view, allowing for inclusion of intriguing details of both lives. Never a scholar, Abby prefers the woods behind her family’s farm and the climbing wall in her school; in the afternoons, Sadeed works in his father’s grain shop. In spite of their differences, Abby and Sadeed connect through their imaginations, and their earlier readings of Frog and Toad Are Friends. They learn, as Abby reports, that “people are simple, but the stuff going on around them can get complicated.” Full-page pencil illustrations throughout add to the book’s appeal. Clements offers readers an engaging and realistic school story and provides an evenhanded comparison between a Midwestern girl’s lifestyle and a culture currently in the news.—Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

Extra Credit, teaching kids children 5th graders about Islam,, Pragmatic Mom

These picture books are suitable for preschoolers through 3rd grade:

My Father’s Shop by Satomi Ichikawa.  This is a gentle story set in a marketplace somewhere in the Middle East where the young boy unexpectedly helps bring in business for his father by gathering a crowd who compares the different sounds a rooster makes around the world.  It shows we’re not so different after all, and the value of connecting from learning each other’s language.  [picture book, ages 3-6]

My Father's Shop, teaching preschoolers about Islam,, PragmaticMom, Pragmatic Mom

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting.  How I love Eve Bunting and her ability to present cultural and new immigrant issues in such a poignant and sensitive way!  A young Muslin girl joins her class on a field trip to an apple orchard and feels isolated and unwelcome.  At the end, she makes an unexpected new friend.  This book helps children learn and feel what it must be like to be the new kid from another country who doesn’t speak the language or fit in.   [ages 6-11]

One Green Apple, Eve Bunting, teaching kids children about Islam, Middle East, Arabic world, Arabs,, Pragmatic Mom, PragmaticMom

Muhammad by Demi.  I bought this book hoping that my children and I would learn more about Islam.  It’s gorgeously illustrated and informative but would appeal to an older child.  [picture book, ages 8-12]

Demi, Muhammad, teaching children tolerance, about Arabs, about Islam World,, PragmaticMom, Pragmatic Mom

The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence H. Parry.  Ahmed is a young boy with a big job busy delivering gas via donkey cart to residents in Cairo.  His big secret is that he has learned to write his name!  This book will shed light on how fortunate our children are!  [picture book, ages 6-10]

Learning to Read, Arab World, Islam, middle east, teaching children about Islam Arab culture,, Pragmatic Mom, PragmaticMom

Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford.  A story of Baghdad from long ago when it was under siege as seen from the eyes of a boy who endures the bombing of Baghdad in 2003.  [picture book, ages 4-8]

Baghdad bombing for kids, children, Silent Music, teaching kids children about Islam Arab World Arabic Culture,, Pragmatic Mom, PragmaticMom

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

p.s. Arab American Book Lists for Kids

16 Wonderful Ramadan Books for Kids of All Ages

18 Wonderful Picture Books about the Arab World

This is my collection of the best picture books I’ve read so far about the Arab world.

27 Books for Kids About the Arab World

Top 10: Middle Eastern American Children’s Books

Middle East Outreach Council Award

How To: Teach Your Children About Islam (and tolerance in the process!)

In the wake of the conflicts in the Middle East, I thought it especially important for kids to learn about Islam and the people of the Middle East which might also teach them tolerance in the process. There is so much negative stereotyping during a war that can color a child’s perspective.

Life in Afghanistan for Girls

Deborah Ellis’s Parvana series shows a realistic view of what life is like in Afghanistan for girls today. It’s heartbreaking but also so important.

The Pharoah’s Secret at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

Chapter book The Pharoah’s Secret by Marissa Moss discovered in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Did I find Senenmut, Hatshepsut’s love there?!

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Genevieve

    I find this completely ridiculous. If children are not allowed to be educated about Christianity, why would we want them educated on ANY other religion? Why are we calling this tolerance for Islam, when Islam itself is the most INTOLERANT RELIGION known on this planet? This world is UPSIDE DOWN.

    • I think that every parent needs to make the decision themselves of what they want to expose their children to. Is Muslin a religion that teaches intolerance? The Koran does not. But, as with any religion, it’s the INTERPRETATION that determines what people take away from their religion. There are extreme sects to every religion including Christianity such that there is room for all people and all religions to promote tolerance.

  2. Nichole

    Thank you for the book suggestions.
    You are right, every parent needs to decide what they will teach their child – either assumptions, perceptions or solely what is promoted on TV, or information through literature and readings from spiritual texts.
    With over a billion Muslims all over the world, the first step to becoming more tolerant is through knowledge (although some would rather remain ignorant). If a part of the education a child receives from school is not an understanding of different cultures/religions, then I do not see how they can properly socialize and develop empathy for others within a diverse world. Peace&Blessings

  3. In times of Trump posts like this one are needed more than ever! Thank you! #30DaysRamadan
    Svenja recently posted…Multicultural Book of the Month: The Case for LovingMy Profile

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