When children see themselves on the pages of books they’re reading, educators know they are more likely to learn. Yet Muslim children in particular largely have been absent from children’s literature in America.
During a time of increasing anti-Muslim sentiment, Saira Siddiqui, a doctoral student at the University of Houston College of Education, is working to shine a light on the importance of using Muslim narratives in children’s books. She hopes to help curb the rise of bullying and to give Muslim children a sense of belonging.
“I’m the child of immigrants, a Muslim-American and a social activist,” Siddiqui said. “And while the media and politicians continue to flatten the Muslim-American experience to one that largely revolves around terrorism, I worry about the effects this has, particularly on our kids.
In addition to pursuing her Ed.D. in Social/History Education, Siddiqui is a former teacher, mother of three and enthusiastic blogger. When she started her blog, Confessions of a Muslim MOMmaholic, in 2010, she said she simply hoped it would be an opportunity to show what it was like to be a modern Muslim-American family. As the blog’s popularity grew, she realized it could be a bigger platform to share an oft-overlooked narrative.
Publications around the country have taken notice.
Siddiqui’s article, “Through the Looking Glass: Reflecting Muslim Narratives in Children's Literature,” was featured in the summer 2016 issue of California Reader. Her piece addressed the importance of inclusive literature, included a list of books that give voice to Muslim narratives and explained how to incorporate such texts in the classroom.
More recently, Parents magazine reached out to Siddiqui and requested an article from her with a list of books aimed at raising a globally-minded child.
After graduation, Siddiqui wants to write books for children. She credits her professors, Cameron White and Lee Mountain, in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, with pushing her toward this goal.
“More than anyone else in my professional or personal life, Dr. White has challenged me to think critically and push myself,” Siddiqui said. “And Dr. Mountain has encouraged me to harness my writing ability and gave me confidence in my ability to be published.”