Bringing Values Alive

Two A4 sized envelopes plop onto the doormat with a thud. They are addressed to my children, so I call out to them.

“You’ve got post!”

They rush over, grab the envelopes, rip the paper, excitedly taking in the names of the books.

Being signed up to the wonderful PJ Library, this postal delivery of books – which is free! - is a monthly occurrence, and we try to settle down with our children and one of their books on a regular basis.

While this is not always possible in the relentless treadmill of family, work, and city life, we make a point of doing this just before each festival.

Even though our children learn about the chagim at school, and we go to synagogue fairly regularly, the books bring to life the festivals in a different way than if they were learning about them more formally.

We like the books that explore different cultures. For example, Shanghai Sukkah by Heidi Smith Hyde, which explores the friendship between a German boy whose family sought refuge from the Nazis in Shanghai, and a Chinese boy of a similar age. They transcend language difficulties to form a special bond and learn from each other’s culture.

We like the historical notes that often feature at the end of the books, which start a discussion about ways to deal with different situations and of past experiences that might have repercussions for the future.

Other books are also firm favourites, such as Rosie Saves The World, by Debbie Herman, a book for younger readers that discusses, in an accessible way, the idea of tikkun olam, or healing the world, and of social justice - while not forgetting those closer to home who need help too.

We also like Never Say A Mean Word Again by Jacqueline Jules, which harks back to Muslim Spain and the legend about the Jewish poet Samuel Ha-Nagid, and explores the idea of thinking laterally to solve a problem. In the story, a young boy makes friends when he thought he would be making an enemy.

The books are age appropriate and feature a wide range of subjects, from real-life political figures to made-up characters, all of whom are designed to entertain as well as educate.

Thanks for reading. Please do excuse me now, as I’m off now to read with my children.

Thanks, PJ Library; we’re looking forward to the next book!

Alex Galbinski is a mother-of-two and journalist (@AlexG_journo) whose job allows her to be nosy. She loves writing about parenting, health, books, travel and food.