STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Muslim Voices program using literature to teach shared American values

Michigan is one of three states testing a program aimed at using literature to start discussions about American Muslims and the shared values of humanity.

The program is called Muslim Voicesand will be launched next month at libraries in the Detroit area as part of a three-year program. 

Older children and teens will read books about characters around the world who happen to be Muslim.

Erika Halstead is senior program officer at the New York Council for the Humanities, the organization launching the program.

She says a key goal is to expose kids to books featuring Muslim protagonists that they might not otherwise read.

"We wanted to make sure that American Muslim kids, who are taught the literature of Europeans and Americans every day, also see themselves as part of the larger tapestry of American literature." 

Halstead says a main goal is to emphasize the shared values of humanity between Muslims and non-Muslims.

"Whatever religion we come from, whatever culture we come from, we are all human, and many of our books also talk about American Muslims. And obviously as Americans we share a common value system, a common point of reference."

New York and Oklahoma are also testing the Muslim Voices program.

The New York humanities group received a grant for the project from the National Endowment for the Humanities.