Kids' Books Matter: Finding Jewish Values in Secular Books
On the hunt for good kids' books that espouse Jewish values? So was Kathy Bloomfield when she started the website forwordsbooks: kids books that matter in 2009 in response to requests from librarians and educators who missed the Catalog of Books she published when she held her national book fair and catalog sales business in the 1990s. As a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee and privileged to preview many of the wonderful books published in the past four years, Kathy felt it was time to bring the catalog back, in addition to expanded book reviews and a blog. We asked Kathy about her website and what she looks for in children's literature.
What do you look for in books you review?
I look for kids' books that matter. They don't have to be "Jewish" books, but they should have Jewish values content. They should be for children. It's that simple. The consensus among educators is that no matter the age level or what values we want to teach, one of the best methods for teaching values in a real, dramatic and sustainable way is with stories.
What's the goal of your books website?
Parents often tell me they are searching for appropriate stories and a way to connect their children to them. Their goal, although not usually stated this way, is to create an internal moral encyclopedia from which their child can retrieve information to handle--in a Jewishly ethical way--whatever life throws them. The Jewish people have a tradition of stories, especially values stories, at their fingertips. At the same time, a wealth of children's literature exists that may seem to have no connection whatsoever to Judaism or the Jewish values parents are hoping to convey to their children. The purpose of forwordsbooks.com: kids books that matter is to provide some insight and connection to the full spectrum of these books and stories.
Do you have a recommendation for a book to read on Tu B'Shevat?
While it may be difficult for those of us in New England to get excited about tree planting in January, Tu B'Shevat is considered the Jewish Earth Day. While there have been many books published in recent years specifically about the holiday, I still enjoy finding those special secular titles that are not only wonderfully written but beautifully illustrated as well. I recommend "This Tree Counts!" by Alison Formento and illustrated by Sarah Snow. A multicultural group of children gathers behind their school to plant trees. Before they dig, their teacher asks them to listen to the school's large oak tree. They learn the tree is home to many living things and that trees are important in a variety of ways."
For more information, please visit forwordsbooks.com.
Here are five more kids' books that do a great job of teaching Jewish values about protecting the environment:
"An Environmental Guide from A to Z" by Tim Magner
"Colonel Trash Truck" by Kathleen Crawley
"Grover's 10 Terrific Ways to Help Our Wonderful World (Sesame Street)" by Anna Ross
"Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids" by Gail Gibbons
"The Peace Book" by Todd Parr