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Ohio School Celebrates Muslim Role Models

Published: 02/03/2013 05:18:18 PM GMT
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CUYAHOGA FALLS - Introducing historical Muslim figures to young students, a leading Ohio Islamic school has concluded a reading initiative designed to encourage reading among students and document significant contributions of (more)

CUYAHOGA FALLS - Introducing historical Muslim figures to young students, a leading Ohio Islamic school has concluded a reading initiative designed to encourage reading among students and document significant contributions of leading Muslims to the world.

“At first, the students seemed to be reading for the contest. But over time, they became interested in reading for the enjoyment,” Sarah Spencer, who teaches the language arts to kindergartners and second-graders at Faith Islamic Academy in Cuyahoga Falls, told on Friday, March 1.

“I hear them talking about the books they've read and they've been sharing with each other.

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“That's what we hoped to accomplish: building excitement about reading.”

The reading project began January 25 to challenge the school's 88 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students to read a total of 10,000 minutes.

Along with reading books, the academy staff tried to bring history alive by dressing as Muslims who are documented to have made significant contributions to society.

Fauzia Nazir, Faith Islamic Academy's principal, greeted students as Mumtaz Mahal, of India, for whom the Taj Mahal was built as her final resting place.

She was an empress of the Mughal Empire, which ruled most of India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Alba Jwayyed taught her language arts classes dressed as Bilqis, or Queen of Sheba, who appears in the religious texts of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Math instructor Huda Matar taught as al-Khwarizmi (Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi), a Muslim mathematician, astronomer and geographer known as the “father of algebra.”

Science teacher Fatimah Jamaludin took on the character of Avicenna, a Persian philosopher and scientist known for his contributions to medicine who also wrote a canon of medical science that was used for several centuries in medical schools in Europe and Asia.

In social studies class, students were introduced to Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan explorer who lived in the 1300s, traveled for 30 years, visiting most of the known Islamic world and beyond.

His travels included trips to north and west Africa; southern and eastern Europe; the Middle East; south, central and Southeast Asia; and China.

“This guy is basically the Muslim Marco Polo and we never hear about him,” said Shadia Hasan, who teaches second- to eighth-grade social studies and dressed up like Battuta.

“I put on this beard to help our students learn about a historical figure that they might not otherwise get to know.”


Students enjoyed the activities introduced during the program, including the school's decision to allow them to wear costumes to look like their favorite book characters.

“I did the happy dance on the walls when I found out about the reading contest,” Sara Bano Khan, 10, of Akron, said.

For Sara, she chose Hermione Granger, Harry Potter's smart best friend.

“I read a lot. I even sneak up in the middle of the night to read, but don't tell my mom,” Sara, who is reading the Harry Potter seven-book series for the third time, said.

“I don't think I wrote all of my minutes in the reading log because sometimes I was too sleepy.”

Concluding the event with “Right to Read Week,” the school surpassed its goal of reading 10,000 minutes by more than 4,000.

Recognizing the students' achievement, individual students from each grade level and four classes received awards for reading the most minutes.

A student from each grade level who designed the best nonfiction book cover was also honored.

Sehar Shaikh, who recorded the most reading minutes in eighth grade with 3,477, volunteered to wear the Cat in the Hat costume for Friday's activities.

“It was a nice experience reading to the younger kids. I had never done anything like that before, but it made me feel good knowing that I was doing something to help them,” said Sehar, 13, of Streetsboro, who read to kindergarten class last Thursday.

“I hope they are motivated to read more because I think it helps enhance their imaginations and vocabulary.”

Parents praised the efforts of the faith-based school to encourage young students to read.

“We incorporated the monthlong reading program as a way to get students in the habit of reading every day,” said Dr. Seemi Waheed, a parent, school board member and local family practitioner.

“One of the nice things about it is that it has been a collaborative effort of faculty and parents.

“We have all been encouraging the children to read and we have tried to make it fun.”

Reproduced with permission from