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Reading and Discussion Program for Children and Teens focuses on Muslim Culture

Reading and Discussion Program for Children and Teens focuses on Muslim Culture

Oklahoma City, OK -- In a unique collaboration, the Oklahoma Humanities Council has joined forces with the New York Council for the Humanities to offer “Muslim Voices,” a reading and discussion series for children and teens, taking place this spring at the Miami Public Library, the Norman Public Library, and Norman Public Library West.

Initially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, “Muslim Voices” creates a space for children and teens of all faith backgrounds to recognize the common bonds that unite us all and to learn about Muslim culture and various traditions throughout the world.

“The book group format makes time for thinking deeply about one idea, over time, which is necessary for this topic,” said Sara Ogger, Executive Director of the New York Council for the Humanities.

Ann Thompson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Humanities Council, further explains the value of the program: "This program is a perfect fit for our mission to help Oklahomans learn about the human experience and gain new perspectives. Because it focuses on Muslims in America, the program touches on a topic of current interest and urgency in Oklahoma. We hope that children and young adults who participate in the program will gain knowledge that will help them to make informed decisions."

Participants will come together to discuss a variety of thematically linked texts with two facilitators, one of whom is a humanities scholar. Over the course of the four sessions in the “Muslim Voices” series, participants and program facilitators will explore universal themes in American life, such as courage, community, freedom and faith, through high-quality books with Muslim protagonists. Each 60-minute session focuses on one book and one theme, allowing the group to engage in deep discussions of literature and the common bonds that make us human.

Programs for 13-19 year-olds will take place at Miami Public Library on the following Tuesday afternoons at 4:00 pm: February 24, March 24, April 28, and May 26. Books to be discussed are How Does It Feel to Be a Problem by Moustafa Bayoumi, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah, and The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf. Contact Priscilla Wenzel to sign up and receive the next book in the series: (918) 541-2292.

Andrew Vassar, Ph.D. will serve as the humanities scholar for the program in Miami. Dr. Vassar is a professor of English and humanities at Northeastern State University. His training in Muslim culture includes having attended the Dar al Islam Teacher’s Institute on Understanding and Teaching About Isalm at the Dar al Islam Mosque in Abiquiu, New Mexico in 2007. He also participated in the Fulbright Visiting Specialist Program: Direct Access to the Muslim World, with Muhammed Syamsuddin of Gadja Mada University of Yogakarta, Indonesia in 2009.

The series for children ages 8-12 will be held at Norman Public Library on the following Sundays at 3:00 pm: February 8, February 15, February 22, March 1 and March 8. Books to be discussed are The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter, Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai, Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter, Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah, and Kampung Boy by Lat. Richard Rouillard, retired professor of English and humanities at Oklahoma City Community College, will serve as the humanities scholar for this series. Books for the series may be picked up at the children’s desk, or call (405) 701-2630 for more information.

The “Muslim Voices” book group for teens will be offered at Norman Public Library West on the following Mondays at 6:30 pm: February 23, March 9, March 23, and April 6. Books to be discussed are Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis, Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah, and How Does It Feel to Be a Problem by Moustafa Bayoumi. Bill Hagen, Ph.D., retired professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, will be the humanities scholar for the teen program. Contact Leanne Cheek for program details and to receive the next book to be discussed, (405) 801-4581.

All of the humanities scholars involved in this program attended discussion facilitator training in New York, hosted by the New York Council for the Humanities. The training was based on the Great Books Foundation’s Shared Inquiry method of discussion. The Shared Inquiry method centers on interpretive questions about a text that have more than one plausible answer. Instead of presenting the right answer, facilitators guide a group toward reaching their own interpretations and understanding the interpretations of others.

All “Muslim Voices” books are free and may be kept by the participants.