Looking for a great spring bedtime story? The brand new children’s book “Good night, laila tov” does more than tell a simple goodnight story. Author Laurel Snyder weaves a poetic tale about a family trip that turns into an adventure of discovery for a pair of curious and carefree siblings. While the two explore the seashore, woods and fields, their parents plant trees as an offering of thanks for all they have received—an act of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. As the children settle down to sleep, they are lulled by the soothing sounds around them that become the refrain “good night, laila tov,” the same comforting words in English and Hebrew that their parents recite to them every night at bedtime. We asked the author and mom what inspired her latest nature-laden work.
What inspired you to write this values-based book for kids?
I think the initial inspiration for the book was simply the sense that I have—and had as a kid—that nature is the best lullaby. Rain, wind, waves—these things have all been incredibly soothing to me in my life. I wanted to write about how reciprocal this relationship with nature needs to be, and that seemed like such a nice metaphor for the way I think the Jewish family unit operates.,
What do you hope children will gain from reading this with their families?
I think kids should have a sense of how powerful they are and how much they can help within their family and the greater world. They should be making choices daily to help. I worry sometimes that the parenting culture is a little too incentive-based. Kids shouldn’t help because they’ll get a treat; they should help because they see helping as their role. I love that what the kids at the end of this story do is their own impulse, not something they’ve been told to do. It’s a very Jewish philosophy of teaching and parenting that we teach by example, that we always model the values we hold dear.
How do you incorporate the values of mitzvot and tikkun olam into your sons’ lives?
We have this amazing “mensch board” that my younger son made at Hebrew school, and it’s had a surprisingly dramatic effect on the way they talk about mitzvot (good deeds) and “being a mensch (nice person).” Each time they do a mitzvah, a sticker goes on the mensch board, which is a life-sized poster of each of the boys. Of course my older son had to have one too! But in general, we talk about the different kinds of communities we live in. They have tasks at home, like feeding the dog, gardening or helping to cook, that are just their part in helping the family. But they also pick up litter when we take walks in the neighborhood, spend time with older family members and give tzedakah to the larger community. But the single greatest factor has been that we live in a really diverse area with many levels of economic wealth. So my boys are very aware of the homeless and other economic concerns. We do periodic clean-outs of toys and clothes to take to shelters. We could always do more, of course, but I’m pleased with how aware they seem.
For more information about the author, please visit her website at laurelsnyder.com.