Jun 26, 2014

Summer Activities to Promote Jewish Values

Summer Camp
Camp is a great place for children to learn Jewish values, try new activities, learn new skills, and hopefully make lasting friendships. This piece in Tablet Magazine explores exactly why the friendships children make at summer camp are more likely to last.

Are your kids going to camp for the first time this year? Ori, from the "Sadie and Ori" series by Jamie Korngold, is too! Sadie, Ori, and Nuggles Go to Camp is a great book for children anxious about their first time at sleep-away camp. See the book trailer below!

Camp isn't the only place for children to learn or practice Jewish values and have fun while they're at it. Below we've included a few ideas for an exciting summer whether your kids are at home, at day camp, or at sleep-away camp:

Learn responsibility by caring for animals.
The Jewish value of Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim stresses kindness to animals. Encourage children to take on more responsibility in caring for their own pets at home, or volunteer at an animal shelter. Animals appreciate the attention and the chance to get outside, and make great friends for a summer afternoon. Taking care of animals also helps children practice responsibility.

Do a tzedakah.
If your child has animal allergies, or volunteering with animals isn't for them, there are plenty other acts of tzadakah they can do over the summer. Check with local food shelves to see if they are running any food drives, or contact your local JCC about any service projects they're currently engaged in. Help out by making posters to raise awareness, or brainstorm ideas for service projects if there aren't any currently running in your community.

Work in the garden.
Gardening is a great productive way to spend time outside, and watching the plants they care for grow is a great way for children to see the results of their hard work. Working in a community garden also teaches children the values of communal responsibility and caring for the environment.

Make recycling fun!
Keep some of those useful scraps out of the trash and use them for art projects instead of buying brand-new materials. Reusing what we can is as valuable to the environment as recycling and is an example of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. Check out Kinderart for a list of neat recycled material art projects!

Start a lemonade stand.
LemonadeDay.org believes that starting a lemonade stand can empower kids and put them on the path to becoming the next generation of entrepreneurs. Learn more on their website.

Learn something new.
Ometz lev means courage, and while we may not realize it, learning a new game, sport, or skill can often be a daunting prospect for children. Teach them about ometz lev by taking a class or joining a new sport. They'll challenge themselves while hopefully meeting new friends and finding new interests.

Jun 11, 2014

Keeping Summer Reading Fun!

Keep Up the Reading!
School's out, and that means time for summer fun! During the first few weeks of summer vacation, books might just be the farthest thing from any child's mind, but reading over the summer is one of the most important things a kid can do.

Research shows that children can lose as much as two months of reading skill during summer vacation. Fortunately, the best way to combat this is simply by reading!

Reading alone can help children maintain their reading skills during summer vacation, but Kar-Ben also has a set of eSources created by teachers and authors to accompany a select number of our titles. They include questions and activities for before, during, and after reading, and are available to download for free on the Kar-Ben website. Check out our eSources, including the newest addition for The Whispering Town, here.

Fun Summer Reading!
These books are perfect for summer - from going to camp to celebrating Rosh Chodesh in the beautiful Negev Desert, they make great reads after a long day outside!

Sadie, Ori, and Nuggles Go to Camp
A wonderful book from children going to sleep-away camp for the first time! For the first time, Sadie’s little brother Ori will be joining her at sleep-away camp. He’s very excited, but he wants to bring Nuggles, his favorite “stuffy,” and is worried that his bunkmates will make fun of him. Is he ever in for a surprise! The fifth book in Kar-Ben’s popular “Sadie and Ori” series.

No Baths at Camp
Another fun book about camp! Great for first-time campers who are reluctant or unsure of what to expect. "There are no baths at camp!” says Max, when his mother starts filling the tub. But as he recounts his week’s activities, he realizes that there were many fun ways he got clean at summer camp.

Picnic at Camp Shalom
This book is great for children worried about making new friends at camp, whether they're going for the first time or have been before. When Carly unthinkingly makes fun of Sara's last name at mail call, her bunkmate refuses to be consoled. But their mutual love of music brings harmony to Shabbat dinner as well as to their friendship, and Carly finally gets the chance to reveal a secret of her own.

New Month, New Moon
This newest book in the "Nature in Israel" series is set in the beautiful Negev Desert. Beautiful photos of the landscape and the Rosh Chodesh celebration will make you want to plan a camping trip of your own! To celebrate Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of a new month in the Jewish calendar, a family camps out in the desert and learns about the phases of the moon and their relationship to the Jewish calendar. A photo essay.

Ziggy's Big Idea
A great book for curious and inventive kids looking to try something new with their summer. Make bagels and invent away! Ziggy’s inventions don’t always work out, but his idea for making the baker’s buns tastier and easier to carry lead to the creation of a favorite breakfast treat – the bagel! Bagel recipe included.

Looking for a New Read?
Kar-Ben's fall books are now available on the website. These new books won't be hitting stores until the fall, but we know that sometimes summer calls for a brand new read! Head over to the Kar-Ben website's new section to check them out.

Jun 2, 2014

Talking Inventions with the Author of Ziggy's Big Idea!

This week's guest blog post is from Ilana Long, author of Ziggy's Big Idea, about a young boy whose persistent inventing leads to the creation of a favorite breakfast treat - the bagel! Check out the book trailer before reading her post, all about inventing (and writing too)! You can get a copy of Ziggy's Big Idea on the Kar-Ben website.

"Have you ever wondered how soap was invented?  Was someone thinking, “Hey! I bet if I mix some cow fat with some ashes from the fire, I could rub it all over my body and feel clean!” 

How exciting it must have been when popcorn was first discovered! After some very cursory and inconclusive research, here’s one scenario I can imagine: A young Aztec woman sits by the fire when she realizes that she waited too long to roast the corn she had picked.  It is all dried out!  Now, how is she going to eat that desiccated, hard corn?! “Oh, well,” she figures, “I might as well chuck that dried up cob into the fire.”
Suddenly –Boom!   Pop! Pop! Pop!  That corn explodes right there on the cob! Her heart races, she falls over backwards and for a moment, she is really scared.  Wouldn’t you be? But when the popping stops, she notices that some fluffy, puffy balls have shot out of the fire.  Carefully, she picks one up, sniffs it, and pops it in her mouth.   Wow!   Crunchy and delicious; She has accidentally discovered popcorn!  “Now, I just need to invent butter and the IMAX 3-D experience.”

Most often, inventions are created because there is a need for something that doesn’t even exist yet.  For instance, maybe there was a student walking around with a whole bunch of books falling out of her arms. Until one day, she thought, “Hey, I should invent a backpack!”
So how did I invent the story of Ziggy’s Big Idea?  It all started one evening when Grandma Evey, came by our house on her way home from a lecture at the Sephardic Jewish Society.  She was eager to tell me all about the interesting speaker she had just heard:  The speaker focused on the history of the bagel.  My first reaction was, “What?!  Why didn’t you invite me?”  My second comment was “Wow!  That would make an awesome story for kids.  I think I’ll call it Ziggy’s Big Idea.”

Actually, the title and the complete story came to me in teeny bits and pieces.  I knew I wanted to write about a kid who was the same age as my own twins.  Like Ziggy, my children are curious and creative, and I thought, “If I were a kid, what would lead me to make a bagel?”
So I did some research to find out the real history behind that yummy bagel, and it turns out there are a smorgasbord of possible ways the bagel came about.  The lecturer had suggested that, compared to ordinary breads, bagels were quicker to bake before Shabbat because the insides didn’t have to cook for a long time.  That was a key piece of information for me, as it presented an idea for a problem within the story.  Every story’s got to have a problem to solve!  

My favorite reasons for the invention of that beloved, baked treat were the ones that came from specific needs.  I learned that the baskets the bread vendors carried were heavy when filled, so some bakers made the buns with holes, so that they could be easily stacked and transported on a walking stick.   I thought that would be a great detail to include in my book.  So I had Ziggy stack the bagels on a broomstick to show Papi how that would work.  My kids weren’t crazy about that part of the story.  They worried that the bagels would touch the tops of the broom straws and get dirty.  I assured them that the broom was brand new, and had never been used.
Are you curious to know the some of the other possible histories?  Check out the back pages of the book, where you can read some other details about the bagel’s origin.   I was interested, for example, in finding out where the word bagel came from.  Can you find the two possible origins of the word bagel?  If you can, then you are on your way to becoming an etymologist - a person who studies when and how words are born.   By the way, it’s a great hobby, but you can’t make a living off of it, so don’t quit your day job.  If you don’t want to be an etymologist, you could become an entomologist and study bugs.  But, again, don’t count on making the big bucks.

I sure had a lot of fun writing Ziggy’s Big Idea.  I hope you find yourself inspired to create, to build, to discover, to invent and to develop your own really BIG ideas!"