"Watermelons, Walnuts, and the Wisdom of Allah"--Middle Eastern Children's Books

"Watermelons, Walnuts, and the Wisdom of Allah"--Middle Eastern Children's Books
Laura Bush: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: One to two weeks


Mrs. Laura Bush was a librarian and continues to be a strong advocate for providing books to young students that will expand their understanding of the world around them.  In the years since September 11, it seems especially important that we get an accurate picture of the worlds of Islam and the Middle East.  One way to do that is to give our children access to books that will open these cultures to our children.


Students who participate in this lesson will have the opportunity to read books about Muslim and Middle Eastern children, and books that tell about folk tales and fables from these cultures.   Through discussion, students will compare and contrast lives and stories from these cultures with lives and stories from their own.

Materials Required:

Computer with Internet access, access to a variety of Islamic and/or Middle Eastern books for children.


1.  Ask students what types of books they have or are currently reading.  Make a list on the board.
2.  Continue the discussion by asking students if they read or have read books that relate to children in other places in the world.  Make a list of the books and ask what they learned from these books.
3.  Explain to students that they will have a new reading list for the week.  (Use web links below or search the local libraries for books that are age appropriate depending on grade level.)
4.  Have each student choose a book (or two), and, after reading it, write a summary about the book and draw a picture that relates to a scene in the book.
5.  Students should share the books they have read, and their summaries and pictures.
6.  Ask students to think about elements of the lives of Muslim children that seem similar to the lives of American children, and about elements that are different.
7.  Encourage students to compare and contrast these elements in a discussion about the books they’ve read.
8.  Encourage students also to think about some of the stories they’ve read, particularly folk tales or fantastical stories, and compare them to folk and fairy tales with which they are more familiar.

Extending the Lesson:

Have an Islamic Celebration Day where students can present what they’ve learned to parents and guests.  The teacher might also have samples of middle eastern food to provide students with a greater exposure to the culture.

Sources & Resources:


Some Islamic and Middle Eastern Books Listed by Age Level

Children’s Books with Muslim and Related Cultural Themes

Islamic Traditions and Muslim Cultures

Timeless Tales and Fables of Old

This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University.