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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……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.

 

Day 1 Ayah 1

It is the start of the sacred month of Ramadan. This is the month in which Muslims all around the world fast from dawn until sunset. This year here in the UK it is 18 hours long. It sounds daunting and difficult to do but their is a sweetness in this month like no other.

Admittedly, if you have read through my recent posts I wrote about my apprehensions. Today I would like to share a reflection as this month is about the Quran, contemplation and reflection.

After the middle prayer (Asr) I read the following verses from the Quran:

All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifieth Allah; and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Surah Hadid Ayah 1)

On reading the translation, these are the points that I found very moving and I related it to Ramadan. +It begins with saying that ‘all that is in the heaven and the earth gloriefieth Allah.’ When I heard a lecture by Nouman Ali Khan he mentioned that in this month we need to show gratitude to Allah. Subahanallah (glory be to Allah) there have been occassions I have read this but I have never really pondered over the grammatical structure and the words used. Being from a linguistics background it conveyed a deeper meaning. Use of the lexeme ‘all’ shows the status of the Al-mighty. It used to qualify the concrete nouns of ‘heavens’ and ‘earth.’ I could not fathom this as there are sooooooooo many billions of people on the earth and there are sooooooooo many spiritual beings in the unseen world that we cannot see. Then there are the animals, plants, mountains, valleys, oceans all glorifying Allah- and only He can say this as he created such things that we admire and take pictures of. Yet in one ayah Allah elevates above this admiration-hence why we should seek to admire Allah in the best way we can in this month of Ramadan.

Then there is the imagery that is created. When a person reads authors use words for the reader to be able to visualise the message. In English literature when I teach students literary techniques two of the things used by poets is metaphor and onomatopoeia. Metaphor is when something is implied to achieve depth in meaning. Onomatopoeia is when an inanimate object is given feelings oridinarily given to human beings to achieve a point the poet may be making. Here it is as though Allah has used these techniques but not in the same way as a poet would, rather to state a fact. This majesty is then reinforced by the attributes used in the Ayah of ‘mighty’ and ‘wise.’ Furthermore all of the words chosen to be used convey a similar semantic meaning.

Finally this is a reminder for me about believe in Allah which we strive to strengthen in Ramadan.

I am hoping to share more gems that benefit me this Ramadan. Please share if you think this was beneficial.

May Allah accept it from you and me. Ameen.