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Country Themed Culture Kits
Each kit comes with artifacts and activities for teaching about a specific country.
The Tales of Nasreddin Hodja Storycards
By Raymond C. Clark.
A set of 40 storycards (one page or less), which can be used as an icebreaker (pairs activity) or a language arts activity to build skills in storytelling and narration. The set comes with a booklet of suggestions on how to use them.
Young Voices from the Arab World: The Lives and Times of Five Teenagers
This is a 30-minute video with a detailed teachers’ guide/resource book. The grade level is 5-8.
Books (Literature and Personal Accounts)
Click here for: nonfiction/reference books (listed under Middle School Social Studies)
The Son of a Duck Is a Floater
By Primrose Arnander, Ashkhain Skipwith, and Kathryn Lamb
The book contains Arab sayings with English equivalents.
Tasting the Sky
By Itbisam Barakat
This is a beautifully written book about her childhood as a Palestinian refugee. Young people can relate to her vivid tale of youth, family relationships, and overcoming adversity.
The Little Black Fish
By Samad Behrangi
An Iranian short story, made to be read aloud. It has many different levels of meaning - about breaking out of one’s narrow environment and learning about the wider world Even more interesting is the fact that the author, a school teacher might have been murdered in 1968 at the age of 29 by the shah’s secret police because of the way he encouraged his elementary school students to think freely and look at the social problems of their country. This small book also is written half in Persian, so kids can see what the language looks like and how the cover of a Middle Eastern book is the back of an American one (since they write from right to left).
If You Could Be My Friend
Ed. by Litsa Boudalika
Two teenagers, Mervet Akram Sha’ban and Galit Fink, one Palestinian and one Israeli teenager, corresponded with each other for three years when “introduced” by a Belgian film director, producing a documentary in Israel.
Samir and Yonatan
By Daniella Carmi
A Palestinian and an Israeli boy meet in a hospital.
A Stone in My Hand
By Cathryn Clinton
A story of an 11-year-old Palestinian girl who has to deal with her father’s disappearance in Israel and her 12-year-old brother’s desire for revenge.
By Andrew Clements
Abby Carson is a sixth grade student in rural Illinois whose head is everywhere but her schoolwork. In order to be spared the embarrassment of being left behind a grade, she agrees to an extra credit assignment involving writing to a pen pal in another country and so she meets Sadeed Bayat and his sister Meriem in rural Afghanistan. As their friendship flourishes, problems arise on both sides. This is an appealing book with complex Afghan characters, providing a nuanced view even for younger readers.
Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs.
By Sarah Conover and Freda Crane
“A treasury of Islamic wisdom for children and parents,”the book contains pictures, folk tales, Quran readings, and poems from the Muslim world.
Sister Shako and Kolo the Goat: Memories of My Childhood in Turkey
By Vedat Dalokay
The author writes of his childhood in eastern Turkey.
The Illustrator's Notebook
By Mohieddin Ellabbad
The book is an award-winning autobiography (with photographs and drawings) of an Egyptian illustrator focusing on his art and how art is connected with his personal experience and the broader context of Egypt’s history. Low reading level.
By Deborah Ellis
This book is about an 11-year-old girl in Afghanistan under the Taliban who has to disguise herself as a boy to support her family. (See the sequel - Parvana's Journey - below.)
Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees
By Deborah Ellis
This book provides an opportunity for students to read interviews with Iraqi refugee children and see how the war has affected their lives.
By Debora Ellis
A sequel to The Breadwinner, 12-year-old Parvana, separated from her family, sets off looking for them in war-torn Afghanistan during the time of the Taliban.
Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak
By Debora Ellis
A collection of accounts of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by children ages 8-18.
Tales from Ancient Egypt
By George Hart
This is a short, nicely illustrated book of ancient Egyptian folk tales.
Lugalbanda, the Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War
By Kathy Henderson and Jane Ray
This book retells a five thousand-year-old story from ancient Sumer (now Iraq).
A Little Piece of Ground
By Elizabeth Laird
Award-winning novel about a 12-year-old Palestinian boy and his efforts to find a place to play soccer.
Figs and Fate
By Elsa Marston
This is a wonderful collection of short stories about teens growing up in the Arab world.
Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories about Teens in the Arab World
By Elsa Marston
This is a wonderful collection of short stories. (The title story, “Santa Claus in Baghdad," can be compared with “The Gift of the Magi." Be sure to see the film made from the former story - below.)
Dawn and Dusk
By Alice Mead
A story of a 13-year-old Kurdish boy during the time of the Iran-Iraq War (and the Iraqi poison gas attack on some Kurdish villages).
By Naomi Shihab Nye
A girl, Liyana, moves with her family to Palestine, a place that Liyana has never seen. Her friendship with Omer, a Jewish boy, helps her adjustment to a strange land, but the friendship is forbidden in a land torn by conflict.
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews during the Holocaust
By Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix
When the Nazis occupied Paris, no Jew was safe from arrest and deportation. Yet during that perilous time, many Jews found refuge in an unlikely place--the sprawling complex of the Grand Mosque of Paris. This beautifully illustrated and well-researched book tells the stories of that time.
A Hand Full of Stars
By Rafik Schami
About a Syrian teenager’s encounter with censorship. “If you tell the truth in Syria, you must pay with your life.” (grade 7 and up)
By N.H. Senzai
An 11-year-old Afghani boy struggles to adjust to life in the U.S. - and tries to continue the search for his missing younger sister - after fleeing his war-torn country.
Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq
By Mark Alan Stamaty
A graphic novel telling the true story of a woman’s struggle to save the books in the Basra library during the 2003 war in Iraq. It’s a simple story, but the graphic novel style would appeal to some upper elementary and middle school readers.
Watermelons, Walnuts and the Wisdom of Allah and Other Tales of the Hoca
By Barbara Walker and Herold Berson
A collection of Turkish tales about the legendary Nasreddin Hoca, the book has short, humorous stories with illustrations. (You can use this with the story cards in the Resource section above.)
Children of Heaven
This Iranian film, in Persian with English subtitles, is a sweet story about two Iranian children from a lower middle class family who are struggling to keep their beleagered parents from finding out that the boy has lost his sister's only pair of shoes.
Santa Claus in Baghdad
This is a beautiful short fictional story that can be compared with “The Gift of the Magi.” Iraqis living during the bleak time of international sanctions just before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein try to find gifts for people that they love. (Note: The story can be found in the collection of short stories by Elsa Marston in the Book section above.)
DVD format. 35 minutes.