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Winston-Salem woman publishes book to help Muslim children in the U.S. learn Arabic

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Bruce Chapman/Journal Hanadi Rashad poses with "Koko", one of her puppet video assistants, at the set area of her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. Rashad has developed a series of videos and a self-published book to help teach young children Arabic so they can better understand the Quran.

CLEMMONS – While teaching at the Annoor Islamic Center, Hanadi Rashad saw a opportunity in the marketplace — an accessible and easy way for Muslim children growing up in the United States to learn Arabic.

In Arab countries, children are taught Arabic through a professional teacher and they speak Arabic in other classes and at home.

But in the United States that is not usually the case, Rashad said.

Knowing Arabic is important in reading and reciting from the Quran, the holy book in Islam.

“We have to read in Arabic,” she said.

That prompted Rashad to develop a book that she self-published this year: “Little Reader 3 Steps Towards Reading Quran: From Alif to Alif Laam Meem.”

The book is available on Amazon.

Rashad has also produced a number of YouTube videos, called “Play and Learn Arabic with Koko,” to help Muslim children to learn Arabic, using a puppet named Koko.

She said that reading the Quran in English is fine for studying and seeking understanding, but when Muslims pray five times a day they have to recite passages from the Quran in Arabic.

Rashad, who is from Sudan, first began developing the book in the fall of 2010. She started putting together a weekly handout to use with her lesson plan. In the fall of 2011, she put all those lesson plans into a book and self-published the book this month.

Habib Bendaas, the principal of the Al Hedaya school at the Annoor Islamic Center, appreciates Rashad’s work.

He said many parents and teachers didn’t have good resources for teaching Arabic.

Bendaas said that pronunciation is important in learning Arabic.

“If you don’t pronounce correctly, you have different meanings for the verses (from the Quran),” he said.

Rashad wanted to publish the book because she knows that some Muslim parents may live in communities where they might not have access to a nearby mosque or school for their children to attend.

Some teachers of Arabic are available through Skype, but some parents might not be able to afford that, Rashad said.

Rashad was able to teach her daughter, who is now 17, Arabic from the time she was 5. By the time her daughter was 11, she could read the Quran in Arabic, Rashad said.

That could be difficult for newly converted Muslims or for children whose Muslim parents grew up in the United States, she said.

Rashad said that she plans to publish two other books for more advanced work in Arabic. She said she wants people throughout the United States to have her book as a resource.

“I hope people can find it,” she said. “This is the start.”

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