Sometimes the best ideas simply fizzle out. Perhaps the idea doesn’t have widespread appeal, or maybe the idea isn’t backed by enough passion. But four years after Plymouth brothers Mohammed and Amin Aaser first had the idea to write and produce character-building books for Muslim children, they discovered they had both an eager audience and a passion dedicated to build a brand called Noor Kids.
The books are designed for children ages 3 to 8 and fall into three categories: Islamic education with topics such as prayer or fasting; character-building traits including honesty, gratitude or patience; and American citizenship issues such as caring for the environment or standing up to bullies. The four characters featured in the books—Amin, Shireen, Asad and Amira—are cartoon animals, designed to engage children and make learning the otherwise serious topics fun.
Mohammed and Amin Aaser grew up along the border of Plymouth and Maple Grove. They attended Wayzata Schools. Often the brothers stood out as some of the few Muslims in the community. Kids would tease them about fasting during Ramadan and even about their mother wearing a headscarf. “During Little League, the kids started teasing me about my mom,” remembers Amin. “So I would tell her to pick me up 15 minutes after practice was over.”
The brothers started reflecting on these memories when their niece was born. “I wanted to make sure my niece didn’t experience the same challenges I did,” says Amin. “I wanted her to be confident and have great self-esteem in her identity as a Muslim.”
Mohammed and Amin started talking to parents in the community and on social media before coming up with an idea to write books catering to Muslim children. At the time, they didn’t see anything comparable in bookstores.
Mohammed and Amin developed Noor Kids by relying on their impressive business backgrounds. Mohammed has a degree from the Harvard Business School and used his knowledge to design initial business plans and even secure start-up funding from an entrepreneurial contest.
“At that point in time, Kickstarter did not exist, so we said, we are only going to do this if we have 500 subscribers,” says Amin. The brothers spread the word on Facebook and signed up subscribers from Canada to Texas. Amin will finish up his master’s degree in business administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley this summer and plans to move back to work on Noor Kids full time.
The Aaser brothers are most proud of their book The Power of Prayer. “The book really focuses on the fact that whenever you are in need, you have someone to turn to,” says Mohammed. The brothers wrote the book after the somewhat sudden cancer diagnosis and death of their mother. “It was really tough, but we channeled all that energy and turned it into a children’s book and it’s our best-selling book,” says Amin. “We have this legacy to leave in memory of our mom.”
The duo has found fulfillment in the feedback they’ve gotten. “We were in Dallas doing a book reading. A mom came up with a picture of her son with literally every book we’ve ever published on his bed,” says Amin. “We know seven out of 10 people who purchased Noor Kids found out about it through a friend, and that shows parents are really happy with the product.”
There have been 15 books published so far, with plans to start publishing one a month; the books are available at the Noor Kids website as well as Amazon.