World Interfaith Harmony Week (February 1st-7th) is a celebration by the United Nations to create tolerance and respect for all religions and a sense of solidarity in the face of those who promote fear, hate and mistrust.
In the United States, most often formal learning about world religions begins only in middle school. When children are exposed to other religions early on, it allows for greater understanding of common ideas and moral beliefs across faiths.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over a billion followers known as Muslims. Along with Judaism and Christianity, Islam is part of the three Abrahamic and monotheistic religions which believe in one God. It was revealed in Mecca over 1400 years ago, through divine revelations to Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him - saying this after the Prophet’s name is a way to honor and revere him).
In this curated list, we focus on books that talk about the tenets and practices of Islam such as the five pillars of Islam which are similar to the ten commandments in Judaism and Christianity. A wonderful way for young children to know about other faiths is to learn about different festivals and celebrations. Our books on Eid and Ramadan celebrate the traditions, and foster spiritual growth and community spirit.
Owl & Cat: Islam Is: With its lovely yet minimalistic illustrations and text, this picture book showcases the concepts of Islam in a simple age-appropriate manner. The bright visuals of an owl and a cat (inspired from the poem The Owl and The Pussycat) walk us through ideas of friendship, family and traditions with humor and multicultural appeal (Picture book, suited for ages 3 and up)
RELATED: See Emma Apple's other books here
The Little Girl Says Alhamdulilah: A whimsical book that looks at the many ways to thank God (Alhamdulilah in Arabic) for bright blue skies, pouring rain and a furry friend to share it all with. A reminder for us all to celebrate the beauty of nature and the joys of gratitude and friendship (Picture book, suited for ages 4-7)
Golden Domes, Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of colors: This beautiful and creative picture book has luminous illustrations and lyrical verse that celebrate the beauty of Islamic traditions and everyday objects such as black ink for calligraphy and a silver lantern. A color-concept book that will leave readers young and old mesmerized (Picture book, suited for ages 2-7)
It’s Ramadan, Curious George: There is little doubt that Curious George is a household favorite for most kids! In this book, Curious George celebrates Ramadan with his friend, Kareem. This book explains the key concepts around Ramadan - fasting, charity and finally feasting, in child-friendly rhyme. A must have for those who observe Ramadan, and others who would like to learn about Ramadan too! (Board book, suited for ages 4-9)
Lailah’s Lunchbox: Lailah's hesitation about her faith and traditions are gently explained from a child’s point of view. Though she is excited to begin fasting in Ramadan, she is unsure of how to explain this practice to her classmates or deal with the temptations of lunchtime! Eventually, and with the help her librarian and teacher, she gains confidence, acceptance and admiration among her peers. A great classroom resource . Read an interview with author Reem Faruqi here (Picture book, suited for ages 5-8)
RELATED: See MUSLIM KIDS AS HEROES book list
Bestest Ramadan Ever: Almira is your typical American teenager trying to balance homework, high school friendships, crushes and fitting in - all while keeping her more traditional family at bay. When Ramadan - a month of fasting begins, she finds herself at the crossroads of cultural expectations. Told in a funny down-to-earth voice with a breezy style, this book never gets heavy handed! (Young Adult novel, suited for ages 12+)
Whale of a Wish: This story is retelling of the tale of the Prophet Yunus (Jonah in Jewish and Christian traditions) from the perspective of the whale that swallows him. The rhyming verse is buoyed by charming illustrations and is a great book to build on the idea of commonality of faiths, and not to mention a do-gooder whale! (Picture book, suited for ages 6-12)
Muhammad: This exquisitely illustrated, well-written and researched book makes it a perfect introduction on the origins of Islam. Award-winning author and artist Demi traces the life of Prophet Muhammad and overcomes the challenge of not being able to depict him with the creative use of gold leaf. Highly recommended for adults and kids! (Picture book, suited for ages 6-12)
RELATED: See INSPIRING MUSLIM LEADERS book list
Growing up Muslim : Understanding Muslim Beliefs and Practices: A clear and eloquent book that draws on the author’s personal experiences growing up in America to dispel a number of misconceptions about Islam. The writing is engaging, backed by research and is peppered with relatable situations that allows readers to engage in her telling of the origins, evolution, religious contexts, and cultural aspects that influence Islam. Must read for middle-schoolers and beyond (Middle Grade, suited for ages 9+)
Deep in the Sahara: With prose that flows like poetry and spell-binding illustrations, this story looks at a little girl’s fascination with the malafa - a long colorful cloth worn by women of Mauritania. This coming of age story looks at every women Laila interacts with as individuals gently guiding her to make her own choice. A warm and positive story about Islam and personal choice (Picture book, suited for ages 4-9)
The Perfect Gift: Sarah is feeling despondent because she can’t find the perfect gift for her mother on Eid. She decides to take a walk in the nearby woods and is inspired by nature’s beauty to create a special gift that her whole family can partake in. A heartwarming reminder and appreciation for the little things in life brought alive by lovely water color illustrations (Picture book, suited for ages 4-9)
My Friend is Muslim: Layla is preparing a class presentation on Islam with the help of her friend Nancy and this frames the premise of the book My Friend is Muslim. The girls personable voices help us understand the different aspects of Islam - from history, to traditions, beliefs and celebrations. Informative, and relatable, this is a wonderful way for an American audience to get acquainted with Islam (Chapter book, suited for ages 8-12)
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued the Jews during the Holocaust: This little-known piece of history recounts how the Muslims of Grand Mosque of Paris saved the lives of many Jews in Nazi occupied France. With beautiful but sombre oil paintings, the illustrations hint both at a time of desperation but also of hope. A timely reminder of the ties of humanity and brotherhood between communities, it echoes a quote familiar to both Jews and Muslims, “Save one life and it is as if you have saved all of humanity.” (Picture book, suited for ages 8-12)
Many Windows: Six Kids, Five Faiths, One Community: A collection of interconnected short stories of six classmates of different faiths and shared love of basketball which brings them together. Sensitively told from the perspective of each child, this book explores different religious faiths - Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity and explores how friendship and religious tolerance create community. Highly recommended. (Chapter Book, suited for ages 5+)
RELATED: Read author Rukhsana Khan's interview here
For updates to this list, look up our book Muslims in Story: Expanding Multicultural Understanding Through Children's and Young Adult Literature
Our book will equip public and school library staff, including educators and collection development librarians, to make real change in their communities by validating lived experiences of Muslim kids and building a stronger sense of empathy, respect, and understanding towards Muslims.
Support our ‘Counter Islamophobia through Stories’ campaign and help us make a difference:
(i) Spread the Word: Share our booklists and author interviews with friends, teachers, librarians and parents.Gift copies of Muslims in Story: Expanding Multicultural Understanding through Children's and Young Adult Literature.
(ii) Buy One, Donate One: Support diversity in the classroom and at home by buying books from the Counter Islamophobia through Stories collection. Get one or more of these books for your home, and/or donate them to schools and libraries around you.
(iii) Start a Discussion with children in your community. Use our books coupled with lesson plans to move from stories to ideas to action.