National Arab American Heritage Month: Classroom Resources and Activities

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April is National Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM)! Now is an excellent time to ensure your classroom includes the rich culture and contributions of Arab American people throughout history.

Learn more about what (and when) National Arab American Heritage Month is and why it matters. There’s also a list of books—both picture books and chapter books suitable for middle and upper grades—that are great for learning about and reflecting the diversity of Arab American experiences. Plus, read on to the end for more classroom resources.

What is National Arab American Heritage Month?

National Arab American Heritage Month recognizes the lives and heritage of Arab American people. In 2019, U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell issued a congressional resolution for this awareness month to be nationally recognized.[1] Although this has not yet been passed, the resolution brought even more attention to the month, which continues to be celebrated across the country.

Commemorating National Arab American Heritage Month in your classroom can both help Arab American students feel seen and increase acceptance and understanding for all families in your classroom.

10 Children’s Books by Arab American Authors

Turtle of Oman book cover1. The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

When Aref and his family decide to move to Michigan, he is afraid to leave his home in Oman. But when his grandpa shares a special day with him, he learns that he can never be separated from his loved ones in his heart.

2. The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story by Aya Khalil

After starting at a new school in the United States, Kanzi wants nothing more than to fit in. Her Egyptian heritage seems like an embarrassment to her at first because the other kids tease her for being different. But when she wraps herself up in her grandmother’s quilt, she feels a sense of belonging to both her old home in Cairo and her new home.

3. I’ve Loved You Since Forever by Hoda Kotb

This Arab American Book Award-winning picture book celebrates the bond families share. If you’re looking for a picture book you can recommend as a home read-aloud to the families in your classroom, this is an excellent pick.

4. A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Maha Addasi

This children’s book includes over 50 activities designed to teach children about Arab American heritage. Every chapter focuses on a different Arab American group with plenty of history, individual biographies, and ways to learn more about Arab American culture.

5. Halal Hot Dogs by Susannah Aziz

When it is Musa’s turn to choose a family treat, he picks his favorite food—halal hotdogs. But with a few unexpected obstacles in the way, can Musa bring the hotdogs home and share his treat with his family? Find out in this fun and vibrantly illustrated story.

6. The Three Lucys By Hayan Charara

Luli loves her three cats, all of whom are named Lucy. But when Luli’s hometown in Lebanon is attacked, his family must leave to find refuge before he can find the cats. This picture book discusses the devastation of war and the terror of being forced to flee your home from a child’s perspective.

Farah Rocks Fifth Grade book cover7. Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Fifth grader Farah and her best friend Allie are inseparable. The two even plan to apply to a cool STEM school called Magnet Academy and attend sixth grade together there. But when a school bully starts to pick on her little brother, Farah feels pressured to choose between protecting her family and pursuing her goals.

8. Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

When Syrian girl Jude and her mother are sent to live with relatives in Cincinnati, she misses her father and brother deeply. But in her new city, she discovers that anywhere can be home if you’re surrounded by people who love you.

9. Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall and Lisa Wysocky

Sold into slavery as a child, Shyima is smuggled into the United States with the wealthy family who kidnapped her. This memoir follows Shyima’s journey as she is rescued from abuse and becomes an advocate for rescuing others from human trafficking as an adult.

10. I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib

This memoir reflects on the author Malaka Gharib’s experiences growing up as the child of Filipino and Egyptian immigrants in the United States. The novel explores how she came into being with her identity while wanting to embrace her heritage and how she felt pressure to conform to the expectations of white society.

Classroom Activities and Resources for National Arab American Heritage Month

Listen to the Experiences of Arab American People

This national heritage month is a great reminder to include Arab American people in your curriculum, and there’s no better way than by having students listen to their experiences. Arab American Stories offers an educator’s section featuring interviews of Arab American people with accompanying curriculum guides.

For example, Arab American Stories houses this interview of Aliya Suayah and her parents Ismail Suayah and Krista Bremer, who make efforts to celebrate their Libyan-American culture.

Visit the Arab American Museum Website for Virtual Resources

The Arab American Museum maintains an educator’s section with plenty of engaging resources to share with your class. From virtual galleries to digital scrapbooks, you’re sure to find helpful resources for learning about Arab American heritage in class.

Keep an Eye Out for Online Arab America Events

The nonprofit Arab America holds plenty of online events—some free and some paid—that can be great educational experiences. Visit their Events page for information about upcoming opportunities.

Additionally, they offer a free curriculum kit for educators to help you teach your students about National Arab American Heritage Month.

Use This Arab Countries Word Search as a Fun Lesson

Koloud Tarapolsi is a Libyan-American woman who runs a blog full of fun crafts celebrating Arab culture. This printable word search offered on her blog about Arab countries can be useful as an engaging geography lesson.

Study Arab American Woman in History

Arab American women have made a great impact in US history. Use this free resource from Asmahan Mashrah Teaching to share the lives of notable Arab American women with your students.

Sources:

  1. Insight Into Diversity. National Arab American Heritage Month. March 2021. https://www.insightintodiversity.com/national-arab-american-heritage-month/.

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