I am starting an Arabic Play group. My daughter is two years old can you suggest any books to add to her library and to get for the play group (ages 2 to 4)?
The parent, who blogs here, lives in the U.S. This limits what I can suggest somewhat; for instance, Allison Nasser at Syraj.Com informs me that U.S. residents and companies can’t accept shipments from Syria. (There go some of the best educational tools on the market, from Bright Fingers.)
Syraj is a good place for U.S. residents to start, as they ship from Texas. Also…
New from Kalimat in 2010 are two board books about two unusual grandparents, جدي and جدتي. They’re written by the award-winning Fatima Sharafeddine and illustrated by—well, Lujaina Al-Assil must be award-winning. Lujaina’s done a beautiful job with the illustrations, which are a warm, inviting mash-up of photos and paintings.
Most of the Kalimat books should be available via both Neelwafurat and Amazon.com.
Also from Kalimat (2009) is the wonderful أيْنَ أنامُ الآن؟, written by رانيا زبيب ضاهر and charmingly illustrated by دنيال قطّار. This is a book to be read again and again. It’s also a lift-the-flap book, which is always fun; it invites children to call out what’s hiding beneath the flap.
My two-and-a-half-year-old also recommends the silly الحيوان صديقي series from Egypt’s Dar El Shorouk, which you should be able to order off Neelwafurat. There are four in the series: lion, kangaroo, dolphin, and elephant. In each, the child decides he or she needs one of these animals as a pet. Simple, silly. Translated from the French, I believe.
My two-year-old loves بيت للأرنب الصغير, written by Taghreed Najjar and illustrated by Reem Askari, and it appeals to the seven-year-old as well, particularly because an accompanying CD has a sing-along, games, and craft activities that help expand the book. From Jordan’s Al-Salwa Books, and available via Syraj.Com. Wonderful for learning language, and could be fun to act out as a group.
Also, حروفي الجميلة by Walid Taher, is a family favorite: it teaches the letters and has Walid’s trademark silliness. However, I’m not sure how/who ships it to the U.S., or for that matter outside Egypt. From Dar el Shorouk.
For that matter, السمكة الملونة هربت is great fun for two-year-olds, also from Dar el Shorouk (translated from the Japanese!), but I’m not sure how you get it outside Egypt.
Fatima and Lujaina also collaborated on يدإي, available from Amazon.com and published by Kalimat. Fun for the curious preschooler. Also, I believe the two of them are currently working on a new one about feet.
My two-year-old and seven-year-old are both big fans of the fun and funny Fizo series, written by Walid Taher and published by Dar el Shorouk. Seven books currently available, as well as four accompanying board books. They should (most of them) be available via Neelwafurat.
هل للكانغار أيضا أم؟. written and illustrated by Eric Carle, translated by Dr. Muhammad Enany, is the two-and-a-half-year-old’s favorite of the Eric Carle translations, which sometimes become a little stiff and overbearing in Arabic. Nice repetition, and of course Carle’s wonderful illustrations. From Al-Balsam Books; I think you might be able to buy it on Amazon.Com?
I would suggest Rania Hussein Amin’s Farhana books, although I’m not sure how you would get them outside Egypt (unless you’re at a book fair where publisher Dar Elias has a presence). Rania’s books are inexpensive and shatter stereotypes while approaching things from a child’s point of view (as where Farhana strips off all her uncomfortable clothes and ends up, naked, at a wedding).
And the Yasmina books are good fun for this age group. My two-year-old particularly likes لا أخاف , which help toddlers deal with their fears of the dark, crowds, noises and being left behind. Since they’re published by Kalimat, these are available on Amazon.Com.
Fatima Sharafeddine’s أرنب سعيد is a lovely rhymed book with fun illustrations. Children can easily chant along. It’s published by Asala, and should be available on Neelwafurat or at the best Arabic children’s bookstores.
إصبع مرمر by author نبيهة محيدلي is available from Souq al Arab (it’s published by Dar al Hadaek), but I don’t know where Souq al Arab ships, or whether it’s reliable.
For the upper end of the age range (the four-year-olds in the playgroup), I suggest الدجاجة بَاقْ بِيق by رانيا زبيب ضاهر. It’s a lovely book about a chicken who wants to fly free, and has gorgeous illustrations. As it’s published by Kalimat, it should be available on Amazon.Com and Neelwafurat.
Also, you just cannot go wrong with الغارفول , a fun(!) translation of the popular Gruffalo. I have lost track of how many times my younger one has asked us to read this. From Bloomsbury-Qatar; their books are also available via Amazon.Com.
Learning to read:
For the upper end, those precocious three- and four-year-olds who are interested in learning to read, I strongly suggest the boxed set called ادم و الأصدقاء, which has just come out from Kalimat.
The Arabic nursery-rhymes package from Al-Salwa is pricey, but you get three board books, an audio CD and a DVD. If you want to see before you buy (and at $44, I’d think you would), head over to their YouTube site.
The boys and I also love جوز وتين و توت أحمر , available from Kalimat. The music is a little fast for the younger to sing along with (he hits بيوت when the singer is on دكاكين ), but it’s fun and light and enjoyable.
Of course, this is only a start! Please do add your own suggestions below.