By reading to our children we not only teach them that learning is fun, we also show them by our own example. Allaah, the All-Mighty says (what means), "...Allaah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge, by degrees..." [Quran 58: 11]
While it is true that the knowledge that is referred to in the above verse is regarding Islamic knowledge, there is no doubt that throughout Islamic history from the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) until present day there has been a common understanding that striving to learn and educate ourselves is a vital part of being a Muslim.
We know from our rich history that Muslims held the highest ranks in scientific, medical, mathematical and astronomical discoveries, for which our scholars have been envied for many years.
It is so important that we pass on our wonderful legacy of learning to our children, and one of the best ways to accomplish that is to read to them. The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said: "Only two persons deserve to be envied, firstly, a person to whom Allaah has given wealth and bestowed upon him guidance to spend in a righteous cause, and secondly, a person upon whom Allaah has bestowed wisdom by which he judges and which he teaches." [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
With reading come the benefit and the gift of knowledge – more precious to our children than anything else we could ever buy them or give them. Reading to comprehend helps them to understand their religion and therefore teach it to others. We know that reading is at the heart of all learning, but especially being able to read and understand the Quran and the Hadeeth.
Not only it is important that we teach our children English, but also Arabic to the best of our ability. In this way, they can experience the Quran as it is in its pure form.
It is not only important to teach our children to read, but for us to read to them and listen to them while they are reading. By listening to them, we can hear and correct their mistakes and encourage them to sound out new words they are unfamiliar with.
We need to get together in our communities and start reading groups for our children to encourage them to turn off the video games and televisions in the house and pick up a book. Whether it is a work of fiction screened by mom or a biography about one of our beloved Prophet's (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) Companions (may Allaah be pleased with them) it is vital that we get our children reading.
It is one of the easiest ways in which to involve yourself in their education and show them you care. Make a plan and read a book together, and then spend time to discuss it, explain it and ask questions. Ask them what they anticipate will happen next, or what they think should have happened.
Ten proactive things you can do:
1. As you read together, stop and ask your children what is happening in the story.
2. Read from a variety of children's books.
3. When reading a book where the print is large, point word by word as you read. This will help your children learn that reading goes from left to right (or right to left for Arabic books) and understand that the words they say are the words they see.
4. Read your children's favorite books with them over and over again to build understanding and recognition.
5. For smaller children, pronounce each word clearly and a little slower than you would normally read it.
6. Read stories with your children that feature rhyming words and lines that repeat. Invite your children to join in on these parts by pointing word by word as they read along with you.
7. Discuss new words. Ask them to make a new sentence with that new word to make sure they understand the meaning.
8. Listen and watch how your children read and understand written materials.
9. If your child is old enough, assign a book every two weeks and have them write a book report for you. Get creative with book reports by making them more interactive, such as choosing a book about a country then cooking a traditional dish from that area.
10. Find books that can be read as plays and get the whole family involved in reading their parts with different voices.
Our children intimate us in every way.
Our children's likes and dislikes are often a result of our own. So it goes to reason,
"If books are part of loving parents - child interactions from an early age, children will associate the presence of books with all of the positive feelings of being held and loved. Undoubtedly, these associations are encoded in a profound way in a child's developing brain. Picture books provide an ideal context for parents – child interactions that are loving and stimulating."
Furthermore, as researches and studies conducted by pediatricians indicate,
"Growing up healthy means much more than the absence of disease. It means growing up with love and attention, and acquiring spoken and written language. It is exciting to offer a child a beautiful book and watch it do its works, cast its spell."
(Dr. Robert Needlman, Division of Behavioral Pediatrics and Psychology, Rainbow Babies' and Children's Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio)
So with the overwhelming evidence, in addition to our own religion and history to back this up, we should be motivated to encourage the next generation of scholars, scientists and doctors by heading out to our local libraries and checking out suitable books for them. We are raising our future, and what we leave our children with today will be something that will benefit the generations to come.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated a Hadeeth in which the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said,
"When a man dies, all his acts come to an end but three; recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him (for the deceased)."