Raising Muslim Kids

Interview with Zair Zabr Play

It gives me great joy to be writing this post, which is a one-on-one interview with a good friend of mine, Hira Rizvi, the creator of Zair Zabr Play and author of My First Quran Activity Book. I first came across Hira’s instagram account @zairzabrplay a few months ago, and have been a loyal follower ever since. She has a three year old daughter, and Hira actively shares ideas/tips on how to incorporate Islamic teachings into the life of a preschooler.

The story of how Hira and I met is pretty much the definition of fate. We were meant to meet, that’s it. About a year ago, when I began blogging, I had no idea how many friendships it would spark. When I first began following Hira’s account, I fell in love with her enthusiasm for teaching her daughter through her hands on book.

And then one day, in her instastory she mentioned she is visiting her hometown in New Jersey…and I was overjoyed! And then when I spotted her at MY masjid, I was bursting with excitement. I recognized her right away, you know where you watch someone on social media everyday that you feel like you know them already. This would be the first time we physically met, but when we spoke to each other, it was like meeting a longtime friend.

I’m always intrigued when someone channels their creativity and begins a project that helps so many of us, who are just struggling to teach our kids the basics of Islam and history. Hira’s book is a compilation of short, understandable stories of the Quran, including magnetic pieces for a young child to play with and it is such a hit in my home.

Read on to learn about how she came up with the idea and the backstory of Zair Zabr Play.

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 10.19.59 PM
Photo taken from Zair Zabr Play

What was your inspiration for My First Quran Activity Book?

I know it has been said in the past, but my inspiration was my daughter. She was 2 years old when I came up with the idea. I was trying to figure out how to engage my toddler long enough to enjoy my coffee when I realized the things that kept her attention were those that involved some sort of tactile component to it. Basically when she was able to interact with a book with her hands she was more engaged. 

I was also looking to introduce her to Islam. I found a lack of hands on learning tools that I could just buy and use. I found tons of amazing DIY projects, but nothing that was ready to go. 

I wanted to make something that made it easy for parents to introduce Islam to their kids. 

How did you initiate the production of the book?

Initially, I thought I was crazy. Seriously. I am a scientist that can’t draw and has no business sense. But that’s the great thing about our generation, we have all the tools we want at our fingertips, we just have to learn them! 

So I took to the world of youtube to learn how to illustrate my book. I turned to the amazing Islamic resources to double check my facts for the stories. And finally, the wonderful world of pintrest for ideas on how to make my idea come to life. 

Last year, I made a prototype. Cutting each piece by hand and using velcro adhesives to stick them to the book. I hadn’t really gotten a chance to learn much about Instagram or social media marketing.

Alhumdolilah, within a few weeks, I was overwhelmed with orders. I ended up staying countless nights making books so I could fulfill my orders. After Eid passed, I decided I needed to be more efficient about my time. 

I chose to invest all that I had earned in my hand made books into getting them professionally manufactured. It was a long road in which I learned a lot. I had to balance my need for the book to be absolutely perfect with keeping the book affordable. 

Who is your target audience/readers for this book?

The target reader is obviously little kiddos from the early pre school ages all the way up to 1stgrade. But the mom who I am targeting with this book is one who is concerned about teaching her kids Islam, but may not necessarily have the time to always set up activity. 

We are all busy, and don’t necessarily have the time to set up activities for our kids. So often we use what is easily available and easy to use. Unfortunately, Islamic toys and books don’t fall  under that category. I am trying to change that J

What advice would you give to other mothers who are trying to start a small business or project?

Set your intentions. Stay focused. There are so many different things I want to do, but it’s best to do one thing well than doing a million things just so so. Decide what your priorities are in the business and plan it out. Give yourself deadlines and structure. 

Buy a planner!

What area do you think the Islamic media/books are most lacking in?

I think innovation is where Islamic media and books are lacking. I think we need to think outside the box when trying to introduce Islam to our kids. We have to think about where they are developmentally and make Islam something that is approachable for them! 

How did you start blogging and what piece of advice would you give to new bloggers?

Honestly, I started blogging initially as a way to drive sales. But after I got through the painful part (setting up the website, learning the ins and outs of widgets) I realized it was something I truly enjoyed. 

I don’t think I use my blog in a “smart” marketing way because most of my posts don’t even mention my book! I love blogging because I love having conversations. Writing feels like having a conversation to me. 

My biggest advice is figure out what makes your perspective unique. Are you a pre-school teacher? Do you have a background in Islamic studies? Have you lived somewhere unique? Do you have a unique family structure? 

People read blogs to understand other people’s perspectives. Provide yours! 

Who inspires you the most? Bloggers/family/friends?

The people that send me a direct message after reading my posts, those are the people that inspire me. Because they are out there actively looking to expand their knowledge. They have no motivation other than to connect with others! They inspire me. 

What aspirations do you have now that you have published your very own book?

Oh I have so many! I wasn’t able to have one of my favorite page about Prophet Ibrahim (AS) from my hand-made book made as part of the book. I’m working on getting that made as a fridge magnet. After that, I really want to write and make more interactive books!

I want to thank Hira from Zair Zabr Play for being a kind friend to me, and always being encouraging to her followers, readers and fellow blogger friends, and helping us to reach our highest potential. Her blog is a great resource to Muslim parents and I encourage you all to support her page and purchase her newest book My First Quran Activity BookI already have it, and I bought another as a gift!

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