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Two of my children were adopted from the Jewish heritage. My family are gentile. It is incredibly important to us that my children (all of them, really) learn about different cultures, including Judaism. Ultimately, they can decide for themselves what religion to practice, but is my job as their mother to teach them what I can.
Side note: If your family is Jewish, the PJ Library sends book every month to your child at no cost.
Avi and the Snowy Day by Claudia Carlson
My kids love stories and books. But to be honest, some books are incredibly dry when it comes to teaching children about new cultures. These, however, are my top three favorite books about Judaism for kids.My youngest son LOVES emergency vehicles, construction vehicles, trains — truly anything that has a motor. This book is perfect for him and any kiddo who loves save-the-day style children’s books. It follows the story of Avi the ambulance as he slides and skids in a major snowstorm that has hit Jerusalem. Avi the Ambulance is a series that includes Avi the Ambulance Goes to School and Avi to the Rescue.
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Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback
This Caldecott Honor winner tells the story of Joseph and his overcoat. When his coat becomes too tattered, he makes the best of it and creates something new. The story has peek-a-boo windows on each page (which keeps my kids entertained). There are little details throughout the book that parents can use to teach further. For example, on one page there is a menorah on a table, and on another page a newspaper clipping advertising Fiddler on the Roof. The book is filled with Jewish references and contains a great moral, making it one of our favorites. If you can’t get to the library, this YouTuber reads the book on video.
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is based on a song of the same name. While the lyrics aren’t the exact wording in the book, we still love listening to it.
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz
I think most readers know I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. This book is a play on the original, and it can be sung to the same tune! If you don’t know the song and/or don’t have the book, this YouTuber sings the book as she reads. This version is just as silly and uses rhyme to teach about popular Jewish culture. The author uses latkes, oil, applesauce, and other foods popular during Jewish holidays to fit into this funny book.
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There is so much great Jewish-based literature for kids. I have selected books on Judaism that are fun, illustrated, and fiction. For early elementary readers, I look for books that help them learn without knowing they’re learning. Here are some more honorable mentions of family favorites:
- And a Cat from Carmel Market by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
- Apple Days: A Rosh Hashanah Story by Allison Sarnoff Soffer
- Dayenu: A Favorite Passover Song by Miriam Latimer
- How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen
- On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett
These books will increase you and your children’s understanding of Judaism. I hope it fosters acceptance and celebration of our communities’ cultural differences.