by Jasmine Kaur
I have been in the education field nearly 20 years now and a few years into it I got involved with Sikhi camps. My first few years at these camps were spent as a volunteer coordinating creative arts activities. Our team would brainstorm on how to make Sikh principles attractive to young children through arts and crafts and then would go implement it.
Those were fun times and seeing the children use their imagination & their creativity was just priceless. You could see the twinkle in their eyes upon realizing that this was not a class of pure lecture or fact learning, but a class, where they could relate to the beauty of nature while bringing out the best in them.
Years passed and eventually I became the Director of Education at a Sikh institution developing Sikh curriculum. Every teacher and counselor has tried his/her best to make things interactive and engaging, but there always seems to be a lack of resources available for engagement.
There have been many books and practice out there for years. These have their place, but they do not capture every child. Sometimes the vocabulary is not child-friendly, or the little readers are forgotten.
In the last decade, a small collection of new Sikh/Panjabi children’s resources have sprung up in the diaspora. I have picked a few of my favorites. Every parent and child have their own liking and what may seem wonderful to me, may be completely useless to someone else.
So here are my favorite Sikh children’s educational resources!
1. Journey With the Gurus
What: Story book and activity book
Journey With the Gurus is retelling stories about Guru Nanak Sahib’s life. The stories give you a glimpse into Guru Sahib’s life. When I received the book, I read the entire volume in one sitting. The dialogues that take place between all the characters help the reader feel that they are right there listening into the conversation. Each story has a set of discussion questions that help students think beyond just facts and apply principles to their daily lives.
2. Fascinating Folktales of Punjab
Age: 2 to 6 years
What: Board books
This set of three folktales in Panjabi are a fun vocabulary building resource in our house with our two little kids. Currently, we read these books three to four times a day or more. The repetitiveness in the book helps children finish rhymes easily and with much excitement. These board books are perfect for preschoolers because much wear and tear can be tolerated. I would love to see a reproduction of any one of the books in a play format at one of the Khalsa/Panjabi schools with the kindergarteners or first graders. It would surely be so much fun!
3. Ik Chota Bacha & Other Nursery Rhymes
Age: 0 to 5 years old
What: Nursery rhymes, CD accompaniment
These nursery rhymes are set to the music of English nursery rhymes like “Twinkle twinkle little star,” and “This old man.” The Punjabi lyrics teach children Sikhi principles such as seva, simran, helping others, and being truthful. We used the CD accompaniment to soothe our kids on long drives. Some days the requests for “Ik chota bacha” were endless.
4. My First Sikh Books
What: Board books & activity booklet
Age: 2 to 6 years old
This set of two board books and activity booklets is a nice addition to your board books collections for the toddler and preschooler. It gives them a chance to see themselves in these books a little. Both My First Singh and My First Kaur books introduce children to Sikh vocabulary of kara and seva and the Ikoankar and khanda symbols are visible throughout. My First Singh book also introduces kesh.
The book above are some of my favorites, and it is important to note that the main contributors have been Kaurs. Singhs have definitely helped them along the way, but it’s the Kaurs’ creativity and perseverance that has brought them here. I know that there are more resources in the making, and I consider myself fortunate that I will have them available for my kids to use them, learn from them, and get inspired from them.
Other resources that are worth taking a look at:
Puzzles, placemats and more www.khelmel.com
On-line games and small book www.littlesikhs.com
My Gurmukhi Khajana (Gurmat based Kaida) www.sikhRI.org
Sojhi Gurmat and Panjabi School curriculum www.sikheducatorsnetwork.org
Panjabi Board books and comics- www.sikhlink.net
Books with Sikh characters www.navjotkaur.com/books; www.jessikaur.com