The Value of Hebrew/English Children's Books
By ISJL Education Fellow Paige Beame
There are many benefits that come from reading to children, and additional value gained from translating popular books into a different language like Hebrew, which allows students to gain new insight into cultures and customs.
There is a theory that people start forming connections before they are born. Some bonds are built naturally, while others develop over time. As Jews, there are many intentional bonds and connections we hope to pursue; one example of that is wanting to engage with our language and culture so that we can share memories and knowledge. An excellent way to do this is through the introduction of new concepts to children at a young age.
Books just so happen to be the perfect way to teach Jewish themes. Texts provide joy to all who can read or listen. Many studies express the benefits of reading such as building a bond between parent and child. These studies also show that reading to children boosts life and language skills. In the “Benefits of Reading to Children: From Prenatal to Adolescence,” Ashley Brooks talks about the importance of reading from infancy through the high school years and that reading supports communication and literacy skills for all children. Diving into a book brings the whole community closer together as teachers, parents, and youth discuss new ideas and share experiences.
One way to make reading an intentional Jewish practice is to engage with books in Hebrew. By opening the door to a new language, Hebrew texts encourage children to be more mindful to other cultures and appreciate their Jewish religion. There are many renowned children’s books that are printed in both Hebrew and English. These books are easy to read and can be a creative way to spark a conversation with children about Hebrew and Judaism. Since it is a common practice to read to children before bed anyway, it is easy to add a Hebrew picture or chapter book to your nightly list and work a little Jewish learning into your bedtime rituals!
Some popular translated Hebrew books include The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, and The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. These books are perfect for reading to a child side-by-side with the original in English. Translated books are also perfect for giving as gifts to friends to help share our Jewish culture and instill a sense of pride in our religion to others.