“Can I Take the Hijab Off?”: Developing Safe Spaces for Somali Children in Mainstream Classrooms

  Sirad Shirdon In September, my two nieces began school at a local Montessori school, a far cry from their previous school: a charter school in Columbus with questionable educational quality. The charter school she attended, like many in North Columbus, has a large Somali student population.  In recent years, Somali parents in the US…

Children’s Books on Ramadhan and the Holidays of Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha

Children’s books on Ramadhan and the holidays of Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha Here are a list of children’s books, which address Ramadhan (Islamic month of fasting), and Islam’s two holidays of Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha. All of these books are available through Amazon and/or Ebay, and may be available…

A Teacher Asks: Are There Books on Eid?

Sirad Shirdon A few weeks ago, on the eve of the Muslim holiday Eid ul Adha, a kindergarten teacher inquired into the availability of related reading material. “Are there books about Eid?” she asked. Ms. M, the teacher, had prepared a book on Islam, to share with the students. “Of course, there are!” I exclaimed. Without…

And So it Begins: Literacy Workshop No. 1

Naima Shirdon When Sirad and I first began talking about the Somali Literacy Project, we knew we wanted it to be an effort steeped in community activism. Simply giving lip service to the complex issues of literacy within the Somali community is a one-dimensional approach, rather akin to diagnosing challenges and stopping short of actualizing…

Improving Perceptions on Disability in the Somali Diaspora

Sirad Shirdon   It’s clear that there is a stigma attached to disability in the Somali community. Some parents keep their children with developmental disabilities at home, fearing that if they’re in the public eye, they will be the talk of the community and the family will be looked down upon. This is not a…

Mom Says: “He Repeats After Me, But Not The TV”

Naima Shirdon How much more powerful is it when you’re able to get a parent to illustrate an important point, as opposed to simply telling them? I was speaking to a Somali mother when she mentioned something of note about her two-year old son. Whenever I talk with him, he’ll repeat everything I say. When…

Health Literacy and Somali Families

Sirad Shirdon A few months ago, I met with a vibrant Somali mother who runs a community organization which serves newly arrived refugees. She expressed concerns regarding the lack of understanding newcomers had regarding their children’s medical conditions. One of her greatest challenges in serving refugees was in improving health literacy. She mentioned that there…

Somali Moms Ask: Should I Only Speak English at Home?

  By: Sirad Shirdon “ We only use English in the home”. As a speech-language pathologist, families often admit that they speak English exclusively in the home. If these families were from English speaking backgrounds, this would be understandable. However, I am increasingly hearing this from families who come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The…