Friday, February 21, 2014

New Program in the US Aids Teaching Love of Reading to Arab Kindergarten Children

A new national program, Maktabat al-Fanoos (“Lantern Library”), encourages pre-school children in Arab communities to read.

A Kg teacher near Hadera reads
Sumsum the Mouse’ in Baka al-Gharbiya, 

The program, geared towards three- to five-year-olds, aims to instill a love of reading from an early age and provide children the opportunity to enjoy reading books together with their teachers and parents.

During the school year, more than 45,000 children in 1,750 kindergartens will receive four children’s books each, one per month, as a gift to bring home and read with their families. The Education Ministry is running the program in collaboration with the Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the California-based Price Family Charitable Fund. According to Israeli Education Minister Shai Piron:

I am proud that as of today, Arab society in Israel can also enjoy the highest quality program to encourage children to read, and instill in them a love of books, which is key to future success in school.

Teachers will engage their students in fun and educational activities surrounding the books’ stories, and after exploring the books in school, children will receive copies for their home libraries. The last pages of each book will include suggestions to parents for joint activities and discussions.

“In the Arabic sector there are a lot of homes that don’t have books, and through this program, children will receive different books so that over a period of two to three years, from pre-school and through kindergarten, they can build a nice collection,” Vromen said.

The first book the children will receive, Sumsum (“Sesame”) the Mouse, tells the story of a field mouse who tends to daydream while the other mice work and gather food for the winter. When the cold finally arrives and Sumsum’s friends are bored and unhappy, the little mouse shares his colorful stories and lifts their spirits of his friends. The book allows teachers and parents to stimulate a discussion on the different kinds of personal contributions toward a joint effort.

This year the program will encompass all kindergartens and special education state schools in the Arab, Beduin and Druse communities as well as some pre-schools. Teachers will receive suggestions for creative activities surrounding the book, including integrating the stories into games, movements, discussions and artworks.

A committee of experts on education and children’s literature selected the four books. Each deals with topics closely related to the world of children and aims to stimulate discussions on universal values and to enhance the readers’ Arabic vocabulary.

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