Read

My daughter has recently began school this year. Similar to other schools there is a large focus on literacy and numeracy, especially in the early years. All that mark making and refining the cognitive skills really comes into fruition at this stage. She is still learning to write and cannot yet read but is a trier! At home we have been practicing using the Ruth Miskin method and those jingles really aid to help her write the alphabet.

In the past I have invested in the dry-wipe books to encourage her pencil control and prepare for school. At the same time I did not want to over do it as I want her to enjoy her childhood. I do still want her to acquire languages and share the same as I do. In my previous post I discussed the importance of literacy in the home. I think it is equally vital to revive those traditions of story telling in our own language as well as Arabic too. I have been learning Arabic for a number of years now but I really want my children to be fluent in it whilst they are young.

When the Angel came to our beloved Messenger (SAW) the first word he said was “Read” and he repeated this too. This interaction carries many gems but to me it illustrates the significance of literacy. In fact it denotes that this is one of the first things we should endeavour to be. Over time I have thought about this a lot- often having bright ideas that I need to write about at an ungodly hour. One thing comes to mind each time and that is that to be ‘literate’ (I say this loosely) is underpinning our faith.

Working in the field of education for eight years now I come across terms such as literacy, comprehension, literate all the time. There is a deeper meaning to them that goes unnoticed and that is that we were encouraged to ‘read’ and learn in our scriptures. Now when I see the effort placed in Early Years it makes me think this is how it should be  for Arabic and other languages-because that truly opens the door to cultures that we are unaware of.

English is slowly becoming the Lingua Franca in the world-which has its advantages and disadvantages. Lets revive and maintain the diaspora of other languages that are out there to. What I have decided is to use the resources and methods I have acquired in English Pedagogy and teach Bengali, French and Arabic. If my daughter can now produce the alphabet in English why then can she not become familiar with the morphemes of Arabic. After all it is all promoting literacy! When I was a child my older siblings would have to explain things to me in Bengali as I did not know English when I began school. I on the other hand I have to explain things in English as my daughters are not that familiar with Bengali.

I wonder if she is going to loose the ‘Bengali Literacy.’ I do not mean academically rather the politeness principles, the jokes, the cultural idioms etc. Similarly, not engaging with Arabic in the manner I had hoped will that give her a neurological disadvantage?(now theres something to thing about.) It all brings me back to the act of reading.

For now I will be taking small steps as I believe this will encourage my tiny little wonders more than completely blasting them with languages and then becoming stagnate.

I guess I wanted to share the surge of excitement I felt about the link to Islam.

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…..Closeness…..

A few months ago I was having a conversation with my sister in law. She said “do you know I read something?” I enquired what it was, she said “I came across a post on Instagram and it said ‘spend time with newborn children as they have spent the most time with God.” The words really struck me as I had been contemplating the ups and downs of motherhood (as you do and never stop.) I was feeling as though I had reached somewhat of a plato. On the one hand I am aware of the tantamount of blessings associated with motherhood, but at the same time there are other things I want to explore and aspirations I want to fulfil.

Then at the same time I do have the usual ‘mum guilt’ that accompanies me and I’m sure accompanies other mothers too. I think about the dichotomy and try and do a balancing act. It usual begins positively but I encounter obstacles sometimes and then it dissipates. Hearing this did give me a renewed vigour for motherhood. It was something small and I am not the type of person who seeks compliments or reassurance but having this perspective is nice at times. It helped me in that moment as it drew upon spirituality which is equally as important as anything else in parenting I believe.

Are there any mothers who also feel like this please leave your comments below.

……Moving away, coming back……

From young age I’ve loved writing, reading and studying. I’m a self confessed geek who enjoys note taking. I am someone who always carries notebooks and is drawn to stationary. The moment pen hits paper and you form words and your brain starts processing ideas is joyful for me. Growing up and being the daughter of first generation immigrants I was not read to *well not in the traditional way.* My parents were not heavily involved in my schooling as parents are now. BUT I was immersed in literacy and learning in a different way; which has had an impact on my desire to learn.

I have memories of creating things with my mum and transcribing things for my dad as soon as I learnt to read and write. It may not sound innovative or exciting, however at that time it felt like I was progressing as I was practicing things I had learnt at school. My parents were never told to do this it was just something they did naturally. I do not think they would think about this and give it any significance but these small things had an impact on the way I coded things in my brain. Being exposed to different languages at home also made a difference. At school we were taught in English. When we came home we spoke in Sylheti. We were taught to memorise in Arabic and then attended a Bengali school at the weekend where we learnt standard Bengali different to the vernacular dialect we spoke at home. In addition to this we would watch films in Hindi thereby being exposed to Urdu as well as both languages can be understood if only one language is knows.  All of these different elements contributed to the passion I have for linguistics, literacy and study-which I am hoping my children also benefit from. However, it was never a conscious choice that was made to ‘boost’ our literacy skills.

I recall being told stories in our native language and imagining kings and queens in gowns. I would conceptualise their attire in our traditional cultural clothing. That would be saris draped across the main female protagonists and the male protagonists sporting Sherwani’s with brocaded cloaks and a turban on their heads.

I reflected on this after I attended a conference about Literacy. It was attended by many professionals who discussed the achievements made in the area. Unlike other parts of the UK here in Bradford literacy professionals are attempting to raise levels in ways that I have not seen whilst working as an English teacher. The event began with an overview of pupil achievement in the core subjects which has improved massively over a span of ten years. During this time the economy has faced many changes. Education itself has had many changes. Schools becoming academies, curriculum’s being overturned, subjects being collapsed, targets being altered, new qualifications being introduced, beaurocracy increasing- to mention but a few things.  Amidst this teachers have ploughed on (sometimes begrudgingly.)

A quote that resonated with me was when the organiser of the Bradford Literature Festival said ‘literacy has to be brought out of the classroom.’ This was reinforced with the speakers of the Literacy Hub who working with the National Literacy Trust have developed new projects that they are piloting here in Bradford. It was refreshing to see organisations working together as opposed to reinventing the wheel. Moving back to the aforementioned quote I do think this is essential if we want to raise a generation that does not have homogenous literacy in my view. It seems that now in classrooms all pupils young or old are expected to excel. In contrast to this I think it is the process that should be appreciated-although results are important-they are not the sole goal.

My daughter has recently started reception and they are laying the foundations for her learning. These early years are important but the family plays a large part in this too which I think goes unnoticed. It was reassuring to hear someone else echo my sentiments about literacy being brought out of the ‘classroom.’ This in combination with the ‘Men in Early Years’ project lead by the Literacy Hub will hopefully encourage greater participation whilst drawing upon that which is familiar to families.

Even though I know about the internal elements of education becoming familiar with phonics has been a journey for myself. Other families do not have access to English so to hear that work was being conducted in family homes in mother tongue languages showed encouragement. The fact that parents were not expected to write rather tell a story in their own native traditions I believe will improve children’s literacy. This shows to me that it is not resources that are available that make differences rather it is how we execute resourcefulness.

Whilst waiting for my transport to arrive I saw that outside the conference there was a statue of a child taking it’s first step. On the plaque it was noted that it was created by a number of children from the primary schools based in Bradford. For me this symbolised what these professionals were doing by shifting away from the homogenous models of literacy and taking the first step- after all this is the hardest.

 

Escapade

Last February I took my daughters and visited their aunty in the city of York. I decided to travel on the train and prayed that the girls would not be to difficult to handle (which they weren’t.) The journey there was filled with questions from my three old and her eyes were filled with excitement. My one year old simply slept which for any mother who is travelling is a blessing of relief. Once we arrived my sister in law met us part way to her flat and ensured we were fed before leaving again for work. In the silence of the flat I simply watched the two sisters play and explore their surroundings something I often take for granted. After they settled I decided to visit the the surrounding area. You see where my sister in law lives is in close proximity to libraries, museums and galleries.

We first went to the library. Each of the girls selected stories which I read to them. They then drew pictures while I snapped a few pictures being the photographer that I am. After this, the three of us went shopping and found some great bargains. Walking through the city and its cobbled streets reminding me of the history lessons at school. This was further reinforced by the Viking exhibition that was taking place. Whilst walking through I sensed the student vibe that the city is also known for, which reminded me of how I wanted to study their myself. The buildings boast of archaic architecture even houses that are being built now. Being able to go through these thoughts was a blessing and a far car way from the daily routine I undertake at home.  Having said this I enjoy the day to day activities as well but a change helps to refresh things.

Although this was not an extravagant holiday anywhere my daughter remembers this trip. She enjoyed the journey there going through the tunnels and looking at the landscape. She liked conversing with me and spending time without rapidly moving onto the next thing. I guess I wanted to say sometimes just taking a step back and giving them time gives our relationships revival.

Mindful minutes

With the era of high paced technology, the influence of social media and convenience at our finger tips you would think that people would have peace of mind. I do not not know about anyone else but I myself feel as though it can be a cause of isolation and give rise to unknown worries that you did not know you had especially in the new generation of teenagers that are growing up.

I remember growing up and my cousins share little snippets of gossip they had heard. Celebrities were inaccessible except through TV and websites that you had use dial-up connection to access. When you came home from school MSN was THE way of communicating with friends. I even remember writing letters to cousins who resided in London and looking forward to a response. Yet at this time I felt secure and confident. I did not feel as though there was a need to ‘be’ a certain way. Of course there was peer pressure. Growing up in a predominantly ethnic-minority less area came with its own obstacles. Now it is different (this I will expand upon in another post.)

I am not condemning social media or technology I think they are great tools and have many advantages. You can see your beloved ones on FaceTime, share pictures on whatsAPP, update events on snapchat and express yourself how you want. It would be ironic if I was to do this as I am using this platform myself to engage with people. I guess a part of me misses the proximity of the old ways. Another part of me is a worried mum. I have two young girls and do not want them to be consumed by the ‘idealistic’ (I say loosely for want of a better word) images presented on these social media sites.

I have been thinking about it for a while and encourage my eldest daughter that she is beautiful just the way she is and also encourage her to be confident. At the same time I see my adolescent nieces and my heart churns when I see the turmoil of pressure there is. I was recently teaching past exam papers at work and the sample text was a letter written to a daughter from a mother. The advise she gave echoed my own thoughts.

I am just a bit skeptical of the exposure to ‘perfectness’ (I know this isn’t a word.) With the way APPs are developing I think the social media is only going to escalate. What does that mean for parents who just want their child to create a secure identity? If anybody has any further thoughts please share 🙂

Devastation

This Wednesday I found out about Grenfell tower like everyone else watching the news. It was a shock to my system. It just seems like theres one thing after another when we switch on the TV. This was utterly hurtful. My immediate thought was are there any survivors? Deep down I knew people had not made it and this got to me because they were innocent lives. Then I began thinking about how could this happen- what was the cause. You see for me when the incident took place I was getting on with my normal everyday activities on that particular day I had not switched on the news as I was doing previously to check the outcomes of the hung parliament. My mother-in-law actually informed me of this tragedy.  Shortly after I started reading the papers online, checking my social media feeds and what I found was haunting. Stories of mothers, young children, elderly who had not survived. Of course for us Muslims it is the month of Ramadan and I saw clips of people praising Muslims and being grateful for this month as the Muslims were able to help. However, inspite of this the tragic event depicted how the community is able to come together irrespective of beliefs because of our common humaness.

We have been discussing what has happened and the atmosphere instantly fills with sadness when you hear the stories of those who have lost their loved ones. The one that really struck a chord with me was of a young women who’s children were trying to stop the smoke from coming in through the gaps of the doors. At this point she was on the phone and the relative broke down whilst speaking in an interview when recounting the the events. The relative said she could hear the fire crackling. There are countless stories like this. I cannot imagine the despair going through their minds.

At this moment my prayers are with them. May Allah provide everyone with ease and save us all from facing further calamities. Ameen.

Something ordinary

We awoke today at around 08:00am. Given that I only slept for a few hours after the dawn prayer and its Ramadan I wanted to desperately retreat into my bed. Alas! my daughters thought differently. Whilst lying down I remembered that my eldest daughter was given a project to complete. It was centred around a story called ‘Jasper and the Beanstalk’ and she was asked to make a flower that could be placed upon a display.

Reluctantly, rising from the bed I decided to make this into a lesson about growth and related it to Ramadan. However, as we began preparing, drawing, tracing, cutting, gluing, sticking, taping and finally painting (long list I know) subconsciously my mind had already made other links. My husband clambered down the stairs and sat down beside our youngest daughter and I could not wait to inform him of my analogy.

So I began explaining. When I came downstairs I looked in the storeroom for miscellaneous items that could be used. I thought it would be good to do this to encourage the use of materials at home. I then asked my daughter what does a flower look like and she found a flower hair slide to answer my question. Then the three of us went about preparing the items we would require for the activity. Similar to this we are recommended to prepare for this month, not just spiritually but physically and mentally. Although, we may not prepare in terms of gathering items like my daughter did, we do prepare for the meal after we break the fast and this is a blessing that Allah has given us.

Once we sat down we began to draw around the shapes that we had found. Now going on a tangent when I do things with my children I like to encourage autonomy. I do this for their own sake but recent research into child development promotes child lead activities. This is also promoted in Islam. As we are encouraged to raise our children with independence, be it through attempting the salaah or praising them for doing a good deed (this is another topic I will write about in another post inshallah.)

Anyhow going back to what I was writing about. As my daughter drew around the shapes to create the petals (which were in an array of colours), she started to cut around the lines and then we assembled them. In the process my daughter could not wait and was eager to simply paint. On seeing the final piece she smiled. It made me think of Ramadan. This is because just like my daughter cut the paper to make the petals the first fast (for me anyway) is like a sharp cut- as we struggle. Some struggle as they have work, some struggle due to ill health, some struggle as they have young children and there are unknown struggles too. By the end we hope that our souls are rejuvenated and our spirituality is assembled (or reassembled in our case) like the flower its just that like my daughter we are eager to see the result and undermine the process which is not something ordinary.