The students at Faith Islamic Academy got unexpected visits this week from some historical figures who were adherents of Islam.
The historical Muslims were characterized by their principal and teachers as part of "Right to Read Week." The week marked the conclusion of a reading initiative that began Jan. 25 and challenged the school's 88 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students to read a total of 10,000 minutes.
Many of this week's activities were connected to the Dr. Seuss books being read by the students in the lower grades. Those activities relaxed the school's uniform policy by allowing students to wear T-shirts from places they have visited, outrageous socks, all green, their favorite hats and costumes to look like their favorite book characters.
Several faculty members chose to bring history alive by dressing as Muslims who are documented to have made significant contributions to society.
Fauzia Nazir, Faith Islamic Academy's principal, greeted students as Mumtaz Mahal, of India, for whom the Taj Mahal was built as her final resting place. She was an empress of the Mughal Empire, which ruled most of India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Alba Jwayyed taught her language arts classes dressed as Bilqis, or Queen of Sheba, who appears in the religious texts of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Math instructor Huda Matar taught as al-Khwarizmi (Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi), a Muslim mathematician, astronomer and geographer known as the "father of algebra."
Science teacher Fatimah Jamaludin took on the character of Avicenna, a Persian philosopher and scientist known for his contributions to medicine. Avicenna is known for writing a canon of medical science that was used for several centuries in medical schools in Europe and Asia.
In social studies class, students were introduced to Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan explorer. The Muslim scholar, who lived in the 1300s, traveled for 30 years, visiting most of the known Islamic world and beyond. His travels included trips to north and west Africa; southern and eastern Europe; the Middle East; south, central and Southeast Asia; and China.
"This guy is basically the Muslim Marco Polo and we never hear about him," said Shadia Hasan, who teaches second- to eighth-grade social studies and dressed up like Battuta. "I put on this beard to help our students learn about a historical figure that they might not otherwise get to know."
The teachers and principal decided to impersonate the Muslim pioneers Thursday — a day set aside for students to dress as their favorite book characters. The costumes ran the gamut, from Spider-Man and Batman to a ladybug and several princesses.
Sara Bano Khan, 10, of Akron, chose Hermione Granger, Harry Potter's smart best friend. Sara, who is reading the Harry Potter seven-book series for the third time, loves to read.
"I did the happy dance on the walls when I found out about the reading contest," Sara said. "I read a lot. I even sneak up in the middle of the night to read, but don't tell my mom. I don't think I wrote all of my minutes in the reading log because sometimes I was too sleepy."
Sara said reading is a way for her to learn new things. That's something Sarah Spencer, who teaches the language arts to kindergartners and second-graders, hopes all students discovered during the program.
"At first, the students seemed to be reading for the contest. But over time, they became interested in reading for the enjoyment," said Spencer, who dressed up as Mary Poppins. "I hear them talking about the books they've read and they've been sharing with each other. That's what we hoped to accomplish: building excitement about reading."
On Friday, a school assembly included students, faculty and parents. Individual students from each grade level and four classes received awards for reading the most minutes. Recognition also was given to a student from each grade level who designed the best nonfiction book cover.
The final day also included activities designed around the theme of the day, Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat. Special stations were set up for students to decorate cookies and make bookmarks. Other highlights of the week included visits by two authors and a Scholastic Book Fair, which will be open to the public 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Islamic Community Center, 152 E. Steels Corners Road.
Sehar Shaikh, who recorded the most reading minutes in eighth grade with 3,477, volunteered to wear the Cat in the Hat costume for Friday's activities. She also wore the costume Thursday while reading to the pre-kindergarten class.
"It was a nice experience reading to the younger kids. I had never done anything like that before, but it made me feel good knowing that I was doing something to help them," said Sehar, 13, of Streetsboro. "I hope they are motivated to read more because I think it helps enhance their imaginations and vocabulary."
Overall, the school surpassed its goal of reading 10,000 minutes by more than 4,000.
The faith-based school's curriculum includes language arts, math, science, social studies, computer studies, Islamic studies and Quran (Islam's holy book) and Arabic (the language in which the Quran is scripted). Its religious education program includes the study of the five major religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
"We incorporated the monthlong reading program as a way to get students in the habit of reading every day," said Dr. Seemi Waheed, a parent, school board member and local family practitioner. "One of the nice things about it is that it has been a collaborative effort of faculty and parents. We have all been encouraging the children to read and we have tried to make it fun."