Boys and Media: Books (Part 1)

I can’t remember exactly when I started reading to my oldest, but he couldn’t have been more than a month old. Books have always been an important part of my life, and I wanted them to be part of my sons’ lives also.

When they were little, finding books for them was easy. I read books about cars and trucks and farm animals. Even that got me into trouble once, though. Our family had traveled to an Islamic gathering in a different state, a very conservative Islamic gathering. My husband and our oldest son went to the men’s meeting place. They left me at the house of one of the women, a house where other women also came to learn.

The experience started off badly for me because I had burned myself on the way there. I was holding my second son, who was still a baby (okay, no car seat–but we didn’t have a car and rarely rode in one), while also juggling a hot cup of tea someone had passed me. The tea started to spill and I moved the baby so he wouldn’t get burnt, but my lap was badly burned.

So I walked into this strange woman’s house, in pain, and immediately the other women started talking about the importance of making dhikhr and such. But throughout the weekend no one ever asked me about my burn or offered to help. In fact, the only direct communication I remember from any of the other women was when one rebuked me because I was reading to my son. The book was about animals and I skipped the pig but did talk about the horse going neigh and the cat going meow and so on. This woman stopped me and told me I shouldn’t be teaching this to my son. I should only be teaching him about Islam. I still don’t understand how learning about the creation could ever be seen as unIslamic.

Anyway, except for that one incident, the books my children had in the early years were never controversial. We read about Curious George and Babar the Elephant and Harold with his purple crayon. As they got older their interests expanded. One of mine was very curious about dinosaurs when he was young and memorized the names of all of them. Another loved stories about Winnie the Pooh.

Finding books for my kids got to be harder, though, after the age of 10 or so. I did find Invincible Abdullah at an Islamic conference and gladly bought up some copies. I wanted them to develop their Islamic identities, but there wasn’t much else available to help them do that.

At first I read every book they read, to make sure it was Islamically acceptable. I did that until Harry Potter came out. Regardless of what anyone thinks of this series, I could never get involved in it. The books are long and, I think, boring. They’re just not my thing. I don’t do fantasy. It’s a personal choice but, anyway, there was no way I was going to use some of my precious time to read a 500 page book that I had absolutely no interest in. So I told my kids to go ahead and read Harry Potter, but to remember that magic is not part of Islam. None of them has expressed a desire to attend Hogwarts (is that the name?), and we don’t have any Harry Potter stuff in our house, so I guess I did a good enough job guiding them through that. (Though one of my sons does write fantasy, with an Islamic flavor.)

My experience as a mother of Muslim teens, as well as a teacher of Muslim teens, inspired me to start writing books my own kids could read.

(To Be Continued)




About jamilahk

Jamilah Kolocotronis is the mother of six boys. She is also a novelist. Her books focus on family issues.
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2 Responses to Boys and Media: Books (Part 1)

  1. I found this link through facebook comment.

    I just read through all of your entires and masha’ALlah you’ve got a great grasp on how to deal with boys. You should so write a Parental How To Muslim Book for us on Boys.
    I’ve been browsing Boys book at the Bookstore I work for but hearing it from you makes it all different. Gives me a lot of hope. I’m sure many mothers of teen boys (especially Muslims) would love to know how you delt withthe puberty aspect and girls and such coming along. (Future post ideas)
    As my son is just 3 years old I have a long way to go for all that.
    He’s a headstrong, tough boy but he has his bravery and sensitivity too.
    We’re any of your boys Macho? How did you deal with that? DId they have other Male influences besides their father? Did they have any coaches or other men they bonded to? Many of the books I read said this is crucial to healhy development and I’m curious if they are right.
    Hehehe by the way my son is one of those who LOVES guns and such. He makes very realistic sound effects too which makes my heart jump hearing the rattatat of an AK-47 and realizing it’s coming from my (then 2 yrs) son.
    Glad to read from you it’s not likely he’ll end up shooting someone in a bad way…. INSHA’ALLAH…. as many mother fear.

    Love your blog.

    • jamilahk says:

      Thanks for your comment, Brandy. Actually, I have thought about writing a book on raising boys, and I figured this blog would be a good way to see if I’m up to that task.
      Yes, puberty is a big issue. That will probably need a few blog posts to be covered adequately. One thing I can tell you right now is something I noticed with my boys. Whatever your son’s worst trait was as a two-year old, that will probably be his biggest issue when he enters puberty.
      I guess all of my boys were macho to some extent, but some were more sensitive than others. No matter how sensitive they were before puberty, the machismo did really hit during puberty. I guess that’s just the way they express themselves. Sometimes the testosterone really kicked in. But none of them ever got out of hand. I think the trick is to build a strong relationship with them, with firm expectations, long before they hit puberty.
      Yes, my boys have had other male role models besides my husband. These were men in the Muslim community, teachers, coaches, and community leaders. They don’t have many uncles on my side of the family, but they did also have uncles and older male cousins when we lived in Thailand.
      Lol. Yes, guns seem to be very natural for boys. I do know some moms who banned them, but their boys ended up being curious anyway. All of that is very natural, though it can sometimes be unnerving. Just wait until he starts talking about bodily functions. (Another good blog topic.)
      Thanks so much for your comment!

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