Prayer means a lot of different things to different people; to me it’s sending a message of heartfelt gratitude to God. For example, the day I was able to drive all the way from my home in Wellesley to Logan Airport on the Mass Pike without any delays was really exciting for me! I told my daughter, who was with me, that it was a mekhaye (Yiddish for “out of this world wonderful”). So I said my “special” blessing, “Baruch atah Adonai for this fantastic direct route to Logan Airport,” and of course my daughter rolled her eyes, but I didn’t care! Nor did I care when I stood at Mount Rushmore and thanked God for the miracle of man’s handiwork or at the hundreds of other places my kids have witnessed my gratitude for the wonders of this incredible world.

I do believe my little “outbursts of gratitude” have modeled for them the mitzvah of Devotion in Prayer/Ivun T’fila. After all, Jews are instructed to say 100 blessings a day! I want to make sure my children are aware of all of the opportunities they have to say “Thank you” to God.

The following books are wonderful examples of how children can learn to pray from the heart and practice the mitzvah of prayer:

created at: 2012-03-28Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book” by Sarah Gershman. Ages 3-6. This simple yet powerful book can help families with young children develop a beautiful morning ritual to welcome the start of each day.

Discussion Questions:

  • What does it mean to be thankful?
  • Practice saying the words of the Shema prayer together: “Listen Israel, God is our God. God is One. How wonderful is God’s world.” If you’re comfortable, try saying the Hebrew (the book provides the transliteration).
  • Describe two things you are grateful for as you begin your day.

created at: 2012-03-28The Bedtime Sh’ma: A Good Night Book” by Sarah Gershman. Ages 3-6. When paired with the previous book, a family can have an easy way to start and end each busy day. The calm and gentle words in this beautiful book will ease little ones to sleep. The accompanying CD has beautiful music to accompany the text.

Discussion Questions:

  • Describe one thing that happened to you today that you’re happy about.
  • Describe one thing that happened to you today that you’re sad about.
  • Practice saying the words of the Shema prayer together: “Listen Israel, God is our God. God is One. How wonderful is God’s world.” If you’re comfortable, try saying the Hebrew (the book provides the transliteration).

created at: 2012-03-28Thank You, God, for Everything” by August Gold. Ages 4-8. Daisy knows her parents thank God for things all the time. When she wonders what she can be thankful for, they tell her to look around.

Discussion Questions:

  • What do you think God has given you?
  • Where do you see God in the world around you?
  • Describe three things you’re thankful for.

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Passover with Matzah, Maror and Memories” by Deborah Heiligman. Ages 5-9. April begins with the Passover seder, a time of serious praying. This delightful picture book illustrates how this instructive holiday is celebrated by Jews all over the world.

Discussion Questions:

  • created at: 2012-03-28Who will be reciting the Four Questions at the Passover seder you attend?
  • If you bring matzah to school for lunch, how will you describe it to your friends?
  • Describe, or sing, your favorite Passover song.

For more books about Passover, including my favorite family-friendly haggadahs, please click here.

Happy reading!