Aug 29, 2011

Reading Books Makes You Wealthy

Have you seen the piece Fairies, Witches and Supply and Demand by Mokoto Rich (August 20, 2011) in The New York Times? The author suggests that when one has money on the brain, messages about economics proliferate in children’s literature.  The examples cited are many and probably true: The Saturdays raising issues about capital versus labor, Little House on the Prairie about specialization, and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type about organized labor.

Thankfully, an economist’s 3-year-old daughter offers perspective. He says, “[Her] favorite books teach the importance of sharing and gift-giving, values that might not lead to the greatest wealth in the real world.”  Sometimes the greatest wealth is found in tzedakah, or giving to others. Here are some books to inspire you and your young readers:
Jumping Jenny – the story of a girl who raises $1000 jumping on her pogo stick 1000 times

Joseph and the Sabbath Fish – the story of a man who feeds his greedy neighbor when his fortunes turn

Talia and the Rude Vegetables – the story of a girl of who picks donates vegetables she has harvested to people less fortunate

Do you have a favorite story that offers you personal riches? Tell us about it.

Aug 25, 2011

One Potato, Two Potato, Sweet Potato, Rude Potato

As fall nears, I am bringing some plants indoors for the winter and making mental plans for next year’s garden. Indoor plants help shorten the bleak Minnesota winter, and my new project is growing Sweet Potato Vine.

This is an excellent project for kids. The supplies are cheap—sweet potatoes (ask your grocery store for a “sprouted” bag and you might even score them free), toothpicks, glass jars and water, and the steps are simple:

·         cut a sweet potato in half

·          push toothpicks around its middle

·         suspend it over a jar filled with water (cut-side down) and wait

·         in a few days, you’ll see sprouts (change your water every week or so)

·         eventually, you’ll get bright chartreuse and purplish leaves

Along with reading the new book Talia and the Rude Vegetables, growing a sweet potato vine is an excellent Rosh Hashanah project. Just like the book’s protagonist, kids will learn what a root (not rude!) vegetable is, and get a little experience growing something themselves. Build anticipation for Rosh Hashanah by checking the plant’s growth every day. Try sampling some sweet potatoes and talking about how they are the perfect choice for a sweet new year.

Aug 18, 2011

Jews at the Zoo

When is the last time you visited a zoo? It’s a terrific place for stimulating curiosity and learning  since there’s so much to see. Maybe your kids love watching the lions, the orangutans or tropical fish (my  favorites are the prairie dogs).  When you think about it, a zoo is actually quite incredible, with its diversity of animals and the range of ecosystems we rarely encounter. In fact, the modern zoo is not completely unlike the biblical story of Noah and his animals! 

Author Tami Lehman-Wilzig challenges all of us to understand Bible stories through the lens of the natural world in her new book Green Bible Stories for Children, in which she presents eight Bible stories and provides kids with neat activities and experiments for them to try. In one story, she explores Noah and the Ark by introducing the idea of biodiversity.  She suggests visiting the zoo and asking the zookeeper:
·         Are different animals paired in the same habitats?
·         What and when do they eat? Do they graze on their own or are they given animal feed?
And she also suggests bringing along art supplies to sketch animals in an open habitat so children can notice animals, insects, birds, feeding spots, trees, shrubbery and more.  This is a great basis for talking to kids about how the Bible teaches us to respect the earth and all its inhabitants!

If you can’t get to the zoo, check out The National Zoo’s “virtual zoo” with cameras in the animals’ habitats. See the flamingo cam.  See the gorilla cam.  See the panda cam.

Aug 15, 2011

Need Activities to Entertain the Kids?

In the picture book Picnic at Camp Shalom by Jacqueline Jules, the two main characters learn that they have something in common. They share slightly unusual last names: Hamburger and Frankfurter.
If you are planning activities for camp (or are making your own camp at home), try these:
·         Read Picnic at Camp Shalom and then turn it into a play.

·         Learn the history of your last name by doing a little research.

o   Does it have a meaning?

o   What language is it from?

o   Does it connect to a particular ethnicity?

·        Write an acrostic poem using your last name. Each letter of your last name will begin a new line of your poem.

·        Explain a little about heraldry and family coats of arms. Have everyone imagine what their family’s should be, then draw them with crayons on newsprint or with chalk on the sidewalk.

Aug 11, 2011

Teachers: Plan Ahead for Rosh Hashanah Events

In What’s the Buzz: Honey for a Sweet New Year, learn how the honey is extracted from the combs and makes its way from the hive to the table, to be enjoyed with slices of apples for a Rosh Hashanah treat from the perspective of a young Israeli girl on a class field trip.

Unique Rosh Hashanah program ideas for your school: This book offers cross-curricular tie-ins with science, including: studying insects such as bees, the recent threat to the bee population (called colony collapse disorder) as well as the benefits of symbiosis. Students can visit a bee farm or schools can invite a beekeeper to speak to an assembly.
This book is the third in Kar-Ben’s “Nature in Israel” series, and can be part of student learning about Israel, including its terrain and habitat and why it is called the land of milk and honey!

Aug 4, 2011

Storybook Characters Blossom in Holon’s Gardens

Imagine you are five years old and in a beautiful park.
Now imagine you see your favorite storybook characters in that park. How excited would you be?
In Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, there are, incredibly, thirty one different story book gardens with sculptures, figures and playground equipment featuring characters from Israeli children’s books. No wonder Holon is nicknamed “the Children’s City!” View the amazing sculptures.

While the gardens are a fun place to play, their greatest benefit is imparting a love of books and reading to young children. For more information about kid-friendly sites in Israel, check out Zvuvi’s Israel with its fun “Where’s Waldo?” format! Children can search for the fun fly hiding on the slopes of Mt. Hermon, in the salty waters of the Dead Sea, and among the models in the Mini-Israel theme park.  Zvuvi even has his own blog.Check it out! 

How does your community make reading exciting for kids?