Liberals are big on gaps. The gap between rich and poor is a particularly fertile source of big government schemes. It’s a perennial inspiration of plans to tax and plans to spend.
Minneapolis Star Tribune education reporter Norman Draper brings us a new but nevertheless “glaring gap” that must be filled. You have undoubtedly missed it. It’s the “dearth of books the [Muslim] students can relate to and from which others can learn.”
Draper turns to the experts: “Many educators say it’s critical for students to have books in which they can see themselves.” What do those many educators say? Draper has tracked one down:
“It is extremely important for young people to read stories reflecting their ethnicity and/or religion in order to feel like worthwhile human beings,” said Freda Shamma, director of curriculum development for the Foundation for the Advancement and Development of Education and Learning, based in Cincinnati.
“The absence of such stories leads to poor grades in school, feelings of loneliness and alienation, and low self-esteem,” said Shamma, who is working on an anthology of Muslim literature directed at middle-school-age students.
The situation is not entirely bleak. Draper has discovered one inspirational novel from which Minnesota’s Muslim students can learn:
Leah Larson, media specialist at Richfield [Minnesota] Middle School, sees an appetite for such books. She pointed to a novel in her media center, “Does My Head Look Big in This?”, about an 11th-grade Muslim girl growing up in Australia who decides to wear the hijab, the traditional Muslim head covering, full time.
“I just can’t keep it on the shelf,” Larson said of the book.
“We have tons of books about Islam. However, the fiction is harder to find. … If there are any smart American authors, they’ll start writing books like this.”
Fill that gap!
It’s too bad that Draper didn’t think to contact Salman Rushdie for a comment, or find anyone who might have recommended the late, great American writer Richard Grenier’s The Marrakesh One-Two.
JOHN adds: The reporter went to my wife’s junior high school–the demographics have changed a bit since she was there–in search of Muslim students to reinforce his theme. While the reporter didn’t seem to notice, the kids didn’t particularly buy into the “literature gap” theory:
“Not many of the books have Muslim characters in them,” said Sakina Walji, an eighth-grader at North View Junior High in Brooklyn Park. “But it works out pretty OK for me. I like to read any good books.”
“I think it is important to have books for Muslim kids,” said Sumaya Warsame, a seventh-grader at Northdale. “Then other kids can read about them.”
Still, as far as Sumaya’s own reading tastes are concerned, “it’s not really a big deal.” She said she likes the mystery and adventure books she reads now no matter what the characters’ religious persuasion.
For what it’s worth, I doubt that there are many books on those junior high school library shelves that focus on the protagonists’ Christian or Jewish faith, either.