The story of RamadanREADy began in 2017, when three moms, Aseya Jaza Jooma, Lila Khan, and Nina Obeid had a dream to bring Ramadan to public libraries in Southern California. Their solution: a free educational kit for public libraries and public schools who wanted kid-friendly materials for Ramadan. Since their launch, they have collaborated with over 120 libraries across America, fueled by the passion to use education to break down barriers.
When I first heard about RamadanREADY, I was immediately moved by the idea. The public library was a big part of my childhood. But of my hundreds of trips to the library, I never came across a book that spoke to my Muslim experience. Fast forward, 25 years, my children will never know that struggle. Thanks to amazing authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, and organizations supporting them, such as Ramadan READy. The founders were gracious enough to share their story with IslamiMommy.
IM: How did RamadanREADy start?
RR: Los Angeles based, Aseya Jaza Jooma approached her local library and asked if they would host a Ramadan story/craft time as they did for other holidays. At the time, the library said she needed a three-month leeway to host a program and so Jaza submitted her request. When the library agreed to the idea of hosting a Ramadan story time and craft time event, Jaza was thrilled and thought it couldn’t be hard for others to do the same, and thus created a community challenge page on Facebook, encouraging others to follow suit. Jaza rallied her friends and Muslim network to ask their libraries to host a program in Ramadan in hopes of getting the children excited about Ramadan as they do for holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and Hanukkah.
Lila Khan, who was invited to the challenge page, loved the idea and started banding together moms in the Orange County area. Through Lila’s networking ability, she grew the page, brought more awareness to the challenge, and got 10 of her friends to sponsor local Orange County public libraries.
IM: The kits are so thoughtfully made! How was the kit developed?
RR: Lila invited fellow PTA mom, Nina Obeid, to the challenge. Nina had the idea to streamline the sponsorship process and proposed the kit. We wanted the kit to include books, arts & crafts, and maybe some decor so that all the libraries were getting the same materials and had uniformity. Nina also proposed to crowdfund the project as it would alleviate some of the volunteers from having to sponsors several libraries; which was getting costly. Lila and Jaza loved the idea of the kit and crowdfunding and asked Nina to get together and have a meeting to discuss the potentials of this new passion project.
IM: The Facebook group challenge was wildly successful with 17 libraries signed up before the beginning of Ramadan 2017. How did you transition from Facebook challenge to a legitimate nonprofit?
RR: With only 8 weeks left, to launch on the first day of Ramadan, we had to come up with a kit. We immediately thought of Jomana Siddiqui, the director and founder of ModernEID. ModernEID was a total no-brainer for us. Jomana was a friend of ours, local, and gearing up to launch her new Ramadan & Eid decor line for 2017. ModernEID has always been on the pulse of the hottest trends for modern Ramadan decor, and so we knew ModernEID was the perfect fit for our first year, as they had everything we needed to roll out the kit. Jaza created the logo, Lila and Jaza finalized the children’s book selection, and Nina spearheaded social media. Jaza came up with the name RamadanREADy, on a road trip to Vegas, when Lila turned it into a hashtag, as it was the biggest hype- you know “#hash-tagging.”
” We purposefully capitalized the READ in RamandanREADy because we wanted to emphasize that the only way to break down barriers of fear, Islamaphobia, discrimination, and prejudice was through education. “
IM: You raised $4250 your first year. What were you able to accomplish in your first year?
That first year we were able to secure 32 libraries in California and 8 out of state libraries. The hype and social media grew beyond our imagination. Alhamdulillah, the GoFundMe was a success, and we were getting kit requests from Instagram and Facebook until the middle of Ramadan. We never imagined we could get so many kit requests, libraries, and volunteers who were willing to be our community partner in spreading knowledge and awareness about Ramadan.
Libraries agreed to accept our kit, do a book reading and/or hold a crafting event at their local library during the month of Ramadan. We are also most proud of our community. Fellow Muslims and Non-Muslims who believed in our vision of inclusivity, and put themselves out there in the community to approach their local libraries. To build bridges through education and dialogue, that “hey we are in your community, and let me tell you about myself and how I’d like to help our library.”
IM: What are you most proud of from your second year running RamadanREADy?
RR: This year we doubled the social media following and had 90 kit requests with almost the same dollar amount fundraised, we also partnered with 4 public schools that took and displayed our kit. One school is having a training session on how to incorporate Ramadan into the school system.
One out of state library in particular, in Piscataway, New Jersey had reached capacity at 192 attendees at their Ramadan event where our kit was featured. We even had a librarian, from Texas, hear about our initiative and directly contact us for a free kit. We also had our first international display in Italy, and are now starting to get international requests from Norway, England, and Canada.
We’re so humbled and excited about our initiative that others in our community are echoing our sentiments. We have gotten tremendous support from the Islamic community. Muslim bloggers and small businesses that have supported or shared our story, social media pages, and our GoFundMe link. Bloggers such as yourself.
IM: What is in store for the future of RamadanREADy?
RR: Our website is almost done and we’ve gone live with Launchgood to start raising funds for next year. We are also trying to figure out new ways to raise funds.
“RamadanREADy hopes to continue to spread the word about our initiative to cover all 50 states in the U.S in hopes of getting the children excited for Ramadan and increase public awareness.”
Being that every year we create a new kit, with 3 new books, coordinating crafts, and new decor, we are already starting to consider new books for the upcoming year. We’ve had great success with “It’s Ramadan, Curious George,” “Ramadan Moon,” “Soy Muslim,” “Ilyas and the Duck,” “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, “Lost and Found Cat,” and “Night of the Moon.” We’re excited to introduce our little readers to 3 new books for next year. We also hope to support different decor companies and bring exposure to Muslim small businesses.
You can help fund a RamadanREADY kit by donating to their LaunchGood Campaign or GoFundMe Page. It costs $100 to build and ship a deluxe kit to a library or school system. Learn more about RamadanREADY on their Facebook Page.
Peace & Salam,