Somali Kid’s Books is a resource for Somali parents and children to enjoy and purchase bilingual books, music and videos. Books for sale are coming soon!
Somalia is a country rich with ancient culture, language and tradition, but the people still suffer from a long history of injustices. Somalia was a victim of U.S.-Soviet cold war rivalry. The country was flooded with arms and its military regime kept in power by both superpowers. Recently, the news headlines have been bombarded by the atrocities in Somalia. The height of the crisis occurred in 1992 when two million Somali refugees were displaced internally and over one million people fled to neighboring African countries. In 1992, I was one of the first Somali refugees who came to Minnesota when I arrived here in 1992. Starting in 1996, the number of Somali immigrants in Minnesota rose dramatically.
In my efforts to find children’s books that reflect our culture and traditions, for the Somali families in my community, I have found that not many books have been written for children at the preschool and early elementary level. Research tells us that the most effective way to assure strong English language skills in non-native English speaking children is to begin first with a solid base in their home language. Supporting home language is also a key to a child’s strong identity development and family unity. I believe that our first responsibility to a child is to support the development and maintenance of the child’s home language. Because language development is central to cognitive development, children need to have access to learning concepts through the language they know.
In order for parents and children to embrace dual language learning, bilingual books and music are needed. I am creating age-appropriate multicultural books and music for Somali children, families and professionals to promote dual language philosophy and to support culture and first and second language learning. This will also help to strengthen parent’s involvement in their children’s language acquisition.
Bilingual books Project:
Currently, there is no Early Childhood Education in Somalia. Koranic education(Madrassa) serves as a pre-school program and is offered to children ages 4 to 7. Children learn how to read and write Arabic and they also learn socializing, gross and fine motor skills, and language development. These skills prepare children for school and facilitate the transition from home to the first grade.
Somali oral story telling tradition lives on, but in education we know that reading and being read to is critical to the child’s later reading success. Therefore, I have developed a set of books that take our rich Somali culture and preserve them in writing with beautiful and unique illustrations that will be pleasing to young readers. Written in Somali and English, the books keep the Somali folklore alive. They teach others about Somali culture and act as a bridge between the immigrants’ old and new lives. I hope that after publishing my books, one will come to see Somali literature for Somali children as a need to the millions of English-Somali speakers throughout the world.
Music and Songs Project:
I am also creating Somali children’s songs by adopting the most known international tunes. For centuries, Somalis are known for their passionate love for poetry, music and songs. There are hundreds of poems about livestock, environment, love and women, war and peace and bravery; but not much melody for children! The only children’s songs we have are related to mothers singing to their babies, so there are no educational children’s songs or music about colors, ABC’s, seasons, good manners and behaviors etc.
Well before birth, infants hear and learn music and sound from their environment. Mothers sing to their babies, and babies smile, make movements and enjoy the music they are hearing. While they are growing up, they need more melodies to listen more, to learn more and to leap more! Children Sing, dance and play to release energy. Playing music together and making movements allow children to bring out their inner thought and share that with other children. Early childhood music and movement is the foundation that teaches children to be themselves, to know themselves and others, to calm themselves and to learn problem solving and resiliency. Early childhood music soothes and expands the brain of a child since it gives the brain the repeating rhyme, rhythm and lyrics.
The creation of Somali-based books and music is not just a project to me, but a passion. I know from personal experience the importance of having books and music that reflect a child’s language and culture. I have been working on this project for a long time, and have encountered many roadblocks: the biggest is simply lack of funding. The cost of creating and printing just one book is astounding. My hope and dream has been to bring the wonderful and rich culture and language of Somalia to all children, but one regular person who is simultaneously supporting a family and working in the community just can’t do it alone. Your support of my project will help Somali children and their families everywhere learn about their culture just like everyone else, in print and music.