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Telling Your Kids the Passover and Easter Stories, With the Help of These Books

Sure, there's already a book that tells the story of Passover. It's called the Haggadah, and Jews traditionally read it out loud at the Seder on the first night of the week-long holiday. But sometimes parents and educators need somewhat more child-friendly pedagogical assistance than a centuries-old Hebrew compilation with a bit of Aramaic thrown in.

 

Here you'll find Linda K. Wertheimer's story on reading a book about Passover to her son's preschool class. Wertheimer, a veteran journalist and the former education editor of The Boston Globe, is the author of "Faith Ed: Teaching About Religion In An Age of Intolerance." Below that you'll see some suggestions by journalist Mia Geiger  for children's books about both Passover and Easter, which overlap this year.

 

First, Linda's story:

 

Sharing Culture, or Crossing the Church-State Line?

 

My son snuggled into my lap as his pre-school classmates clustered around me. I had offered to read a book to his class. No big deal, right? But this wasn’t just any book. It was the day before Passover, and I had brought in a Jewish children’s book.

 

When I mentioned my upcoming visit to my mother, she asked if I were worried about crossing that line separating church from state. I was not that worried. My son’s preschool is private. Besides, is it promoting Judaism to read a book about Passover?

 

I wanted to share a bit of my son’s world with his classmates, and his teacher embraced my idea to visit with a book and some Passover food. So did the teacher in the neighboring classroom when she overheard our discussion. She said the children hear plenty about Easter and need to know about Passover.

 

 

The 1992 book I read, "Mrs. Katz and Tush," by Patricia Polacco, is not just about Passover. It’s a multi-cultural, inter-generational story about a widow from Poland and the friendship she makes with a black boy who lives nearby. The boy, Larnel, brings Mrs. Katz a kitten as a present, and the widow agrees to keep the cat only if Larnel helps with it.

 

The girl next to me burst into giggles when I read about how the cat got its name, “Tush.” The kitten has no tail, and tush, well, is a Yiddish word that refers to the derriere. I grew up with a smattering of Yiddish words, but tush was foreign to most of my son’s class and I later learned, some of his school’s teachers. I realized I was not just sharing something about a holiday. I was sharing culture.

 

In the book, Mrs. Katz and Larnel grow close, and one day, the boy hears the yearning in his friend’s voice when she talks of Passovers past. He asks if he could have Passover dinner with her. She takes him with her to shop and tells him the story of Passover. Mrs. Katz tells Larnel that Jews, like blacks, once were slaves, too.

 

After story time, I served the children matzo and haroset, a combination of apples, grape juice, cinnamon, raisins, and honey meant to resemble the mortar the Jews had to use when they worked as slaves. I told the children that my son helped me make the haroset, and Simon grinned as he spooned in mouthfuls rather than put it on his matzo.

 

After story time, I served the children matzo and haroset, a combination of apples, grape juice, cinnamon, raisins, and honey meant to resemble the mortar the Jews had to use when they worked as slaves. I told the children that my son helped me make the haroset, and Simon grinned as he spooned in mouthfuls rather than put it on his matzo.

 

Did I cross a line with this pre-school visit? No, I don’t think so. The teacher next door asked to borrow the book and read it to her class the same day. No preaching went on through the reading of a book. It was much different than the way I was treated when I was the only Jew in my rural Ohio school in the 1970s; a church volunteer visited weekly to preach a Bible lesson with a Christian focus. My parents got me excused. That isolated me and prompted questions from my classmates. They wanted to know why I didn’t stay. They wanted to know what made a Jew different.

 

My son’s young classmates perhaps now have a sense of what my peers did not at a much older age. These 4-year-olds know that people celebrate different holidays, and that is perfectly fine. Of course, to be fair, I have to ask myself this: How would I feel if a parent came in and read a children’s story about Easter and how it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus? If the book is sensitive and not preachy, I would be fine with it. My son can benefit from learning about other religions besides his own. I don’t fear that he will suddenly want to change religions. It’s okay if he learns that Easter is about more than just a chocolate bunny.

 

(Reprinted with permission from Lindakwertheimer.com.)

 

And now some more books that can help parents and educators tell the stories of the Jewish and Christian spring festivals to young children:

 

Egg, by Kevin Henkes

 

 

 

Egg is a graphic novel for preschoolers about four eggs, one big surprise, and an unlikely friendship, by Caldecott Medalist and New York Times-bestselling author Kevin Henkes.

 

"It’s a lovely tale of acceptance, friendship and feelings, represented by an economy of words and uncomplicated-yet-masterful illustrations," writes Mia Geiger. "Tuck this treasure into your tot’s Easter basket."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otter Loves Easter, by Sam Garton

 

 

This year the Easter Bunny brought Otter lots of chocolate eggs—her favorite! Otter Keeper said she had to share them with her friends, but sharing is very hard . . . and eating chocolate is very easy. Otter didn’t want Teddy, Giraffe, and Pig to be sad, though. Someone had to save Easter—and she knew just the right Otter for the job!

 

"Cute, colorful digital illustrations enrich the gentle story," writes Geiger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passover Scavenger Hunt, by Shanna Silva; illustrated by Miki Sakamoto

 

Rachel's uncle is terrible at hiding the afikomen. It's always too easy to find! So this year, Rachel decides to take over. She finds the perfect hiding spot and creates a series of clues for her cousins to follow. Can you guess where the hunt will lead them?

 

"[Rachel's] relatives search for the clues, until they find the sixth one and can assemble the puzzle pieces, which form a Seder plate," writes Geiger. "Images of a close-knit extended family, with smiling youngsters and playful adult-child interactions, impart a joyous atmosphere."

 

 

READ MORE [The Washington Post]

 

 

 

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