Archive for the ‘Arriving Early for Study/Hashkamat beit hamidrash’ Category

“Did you ask a good question today?”*: Arriving Early For Study/Hashkamat beit hamidrash

*from a story about Isador Rabi, Nobel Laureate

The importance of education and learning, the third value outlined in the Eilu D’varim prayer – Arriving Early for Study/Hashkamat beit hamidrash - is one of the hallmarks of the Jewish people. Perhaps because our history has included so many exoduses, expulsions, exiles and the like, we decided long ago that keeping our most valuable possessions – our ideals, ideas and values – in our heads would be the best way to transport them from one place to the next with minimal loss.

However, It is not enough to simply memorize the ideas and facts we are given, we must embrace and understand the reasons behind the information we are given.  Engaging in our education is held in equally high regard as the learning experience itself. We do this through questioning, an essential, if not fundamental, part of the Jewish learning experience. To ask is the bedrock of Jewish life.

The following books embrace education and encourage us to ask some wonderful questions:

Wow! School! Written and illustrated by Robert Neubecker, ©2007. Hyperion Books for Children.  Ages 3-6. Explore school with Izzy as she experiences the wonder and delight of a day in the classroom. From learning the alphabet to singing to making new friends to story time, school is a fun filled and exciting time. The bold, bright, colorful pictures practically shout for you to have a good time.

Sammy Spider’s First Day of School. Written by Sylvia A. Rouss. Illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn, ©2009. Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 3-6.  Sammy Spider goes to school with Josh, listens to the story of Noah’s ark and escapes being hurt when the children learn about being kind to animals.

Wolf! By Becky Bloom. Illustrated by Pascal Biet, ©1999. Orchard Books. Ages 4-8.  Wolf is tired and hungry, but is totally ignored by the farm animals engaged in reading their books.  In order to be taken seriously, he must get an education, which he does, with surprising results.

The Art Lesson. Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, ©1989. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Ages 4-8. Tommy plans to be an artist when he grows up, but how will that happen if he only gets one piece of paper during art class, cannot use his own box of 64 Crayola crayons and has to copy the pictures the art teacher draws?

The Royal Bee by Frances Park and Ginger Park. Illustrated by Christopher Zhong-Yuan Zhang, ©2000. Boyds Mill Press.  Ages 6-9.  Song-ho is a poor boy who desperately wants to learn to read and write, a privilege only given to the wealthy. However, he finds a way to listen to the lessons taught outside the schoolroom doors and eventually learns enough to change his circumstances.

Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, ©1996. Philomel Books. Ages 7-10.  ”There will be consequences,” says Aunt Chip as she takes to her bed when the TV Tower goes up and the entire town sits glued to their televisions morning, noon and night.  And consequences there were…

Freedom School, Yes! by Amy Littlesugar. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ©2001. Philomel Books. Ages 7-11. In a place where school is not available and where making it available is met with anger and violence, a group of young people find the courage to teach and students find the courage to learn. This was Mississippi in 1964.

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill, © 2000.  Aladdin Paperbacks. Ages 9-12.  After losing another of many teachers because the village is too cold, the children smell of fish  or the parents put hunting over learning, Miss Agness comes to the one-room schoolhouse in Alaska. How long will she stay?

The Report Card by Andrew Clements, © 2005.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Ages 10-13. A middle school genius is discovered when she carefully fails several classes in an effort to demonstrate that test scores and grades do not necessarily reflect intelligence.

The Secret School by Avi, © 2001.  Sandpiper. Ages 10-14. When their teacher leaves before the end of the year, the School Board decides to close down the one-room school to save money. But where does that leave the students who must take end-of-year tests in order to move on to the next grade.

As you read these books, discuss them with your children using the “Speak Volumes” guide for this month. You may be surprised to learn that you are practicing the value of Arriving Early for Study/Hashkamat beit hamidrash. Think of the many times you practice this value every day as you answer questions, teach new skills and ask or learn about new things yourself.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from my own collection or my local public library.
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