Values: Pride, Respect, Compassion, Empathy and Equality.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is a fencer and the first Muslim American woman in hijab to compete for the United States at the Olympic Games. She has used her voice and her platform to write this emotive book empowering young girls and women wearing hijab. I think it's a book every primary school should own whether or not they have a Muslim community at their school.
The book follows two sisters going to school. The older sister, Asiya, is wearing her first-day hijab - a special event and one that her mother has emotionally prepared her for. Her younger sister, Faizah, is so proud of her older sister and keeps checking up on her during the school day. Asiya has to answer questions when her friends ask about what she is wearing, and some boys taunt her calling it a tablecloth. Asiya, though, is strong and remembers her hijab is important to her and her family. She doesn't let their words break her down. Faizah sees the beauty in blue and uses language like the ocean and skies to portray the beauty to the reader; she also wants to wear blue for her first-day hijab, inspired by her older sister. This shows us the Value of pride and we can reference the title of the book, The Proudest Blue.
There are so many Values I could talk about for this modern and moving book. Respect and compassion are obvious ones. In schools (and many, many homes), adults try to break down stereotypes by educating children about the meaning of customs and cultures that may be not talked about at home. We teach children to respect beliefs and traditions that we may not share. We teach children to show compassion for things they may not have a full understanding of and to be thirsty to learn more.
I haven't had a chance to discuss this book with a class of my own yet, but if I did, I would use it for an empathy lesson. How might Asiya be feeling? Why might Faizah keep checking on her sister? How might their mum be feeling? Why do we see the mother's sayings to her daughter throughout the book even though the mum isn't at school?
I would also use the lesson to discuss equality. I would look at the achievements of Ibtihaj Muhammad as an Olympian and medal winner and talk about whether we all have equal opportunities. How might sport change in the next few years based on sportspeople like Ibtihaj Muhammad? This could be really nice link to the PE curriculum and the book could easily be read as part of an assembly.
I would introduce and talk about the value of integrity - having honest and strong moral principles. This could be a word that needs unpicking with the children. Why have I picked this word for us to discuss with this story?
These are just thoughts and there are many more ways you could take this book, all of which are valuable. If you want to follow Ibtihaj Muhammad on Twitter her handle is: @IbtihajMuhammad and you can find this book on Amazon.
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