Chashuv/Important: “Take a Census” (Numbers 1:2 & 4:22)

This week and next Jewish people around the world will be reading and discussing Torah portions, Bamidbar and Naso, about the census of the Israelites in the desert. Interesting, as we here in America are going through our own decennial census and have just sent out enumerators to follow up with households whose mail-in census forms were not received by the US Census Bureau Office.

“Count Me In!” “You Can Count on Me!” “Stand Up and Be Counted!” are just a few of the many idioms in the English language using the word “count.” In these cases, “count” implies a certain responsibility or accountability, if you will, on the part of the counted individual. By stepping forward and being counted, as in a census for example, you are attesting to the fact that you exist, are present and available for the task at hand. When you take on responsibilities or make yourself responsible, you become important or Chashuv in Hebrew.

I see the census as a way for the government to know I exist. Not in a “Big Brother is Watching” way, but in an “I need to know you are there, if I am going to be able to take care of you” way. If I fulfill my responsibilities – pay my taxes, vote, follow the law, etc. – then I expect my government to do the same in return. How will that happen, if the government has no idea that I exist? How will it know that I need a road to my home, a school for my children, or a hospital for my community?

The United States census is mandated by the U. S. Constitution, the information is absolutely, positively and utterly confidential (I believe the government is close to paranoid about this), and the information gleaned from the census impacts such significant decisions as my state’s representatives in congress, electoral votes and government funding. I am an important/Chashuv participant in making sure the information collected is accurate.

When I was in school, I learned that participating in the census was a “civic responsibility.” I wonder if they teach that any longer. In case they do not, and to be of some assistance to the enumerators out there who are working hard to make sure that everyone gets counted, I have put together a list of books that can help your child – and perhaps yourself – understand the importance of counting and the value of being counted in America.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

The History of Counting. By Denise Schmandt-Besserat. Illustrated by Michael Hays. © 1999, Morrow Junior Books, a division of William Morrow and Company. Ages 9-12.  How did the world arrive at the method of using numbers the way we do today? It was not always this way. This intriguing history follows humankind from pre-historic through agricultural into commercial times as the need for an abstract counting system became greater and more important. Wondrous illustrations of counting systems from the simple to the complex aid the understanding of this complicated topic. The text, while easy to understand, delves deeply into the back roads of history to unearth how we arrived at a universal system of numbers that most of us assume has been in use forever.

How Many Snails? A Counting Book. By Paul Giganti. Illustrated by: Donald Crews. ©1988, Greenwillow Books. Ages 3-6. More than a simple counting book, the reader must see the details in this charming and colorful concept book. Count the number of flowers. How many of them are yellow? How many dogs are spotted? “How many cupcakes had white icing and candy sprinkles?”   A wonderful introduction into taking a closer look at the world around us.

A Million Dots. By Andrew Clements.  Illustrated by Mike Reed. © 2006, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 4-10. What does a million look like? Using tiny dots and captivating information, Clements and Reed help children and adults see and understand the concept of 1 million. As you read this well illustrated and engagingly written book, they challenge you to find a specific dot and learn a fascinating fact about the number it represents. Eyes may cross, but giggles will abound as everyone learns about great big numbers.

If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States. By David Smith. Illustrated by: Shelagh Armstrong. © 2009, Kids Can Press. Ages 6-9. Do you wonder how the information from the census is used? Some of it assists in the writing of wonderful books like this, that help our children understand more about the country in which they live and the people who live there. This extraordinary picture book uses the statistics from the US Census Bureau and many other resources to describe the United States of America, with a population of over 306 Million, as a village of 100 people. The results – both the artwork and the numbers – are captivating presenting you with a picture of America unlike any you have ever seen before.

I Am America. By: Charles R. Smith, Jr.  © 2003, Scholastic, Inc. Ages 3-6. Simple lyrical text and warm blocks of bright, bold colors, accompany gorgeous full-color photographs of charming children from across the country in this delightful introduction to America today. The diversity of cultures, religions, styles, sounds and so much more are all represented here. I see hope for our country in the eyes of the children on these pages.

Unite or Die! The Story of the Thirteen Colonies. By Jacqueline Jules. Illustrated by Jef Czekaj. © 2009, Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. Ages 6-10. Perhaps you have forgotten why we need a Federal Government in the first place. Possibly a refresher course in American History 101: Post- Revolutionary War is in order. Here is a perfect solution. Did you know that “in the beginning” all the states had their own currency? There was no trade agreement with foreign governments because the states could not speak with one voice? Vermont used to be land that was claimed by both New York and New Hampshire? A school play is the setting for these fun facts and many more as the students reenact the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Captivatingly humorous, cartoon-style illustrations will engage children of all ages in learning about a seminal moment in American history. The first census in US history followed in 1790.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from my public library.
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One Response to “Chashuv/Important: “Take a Census” (Numbers 1:2 & 4:22)”

  1. I know some of these books, but not others. I love this one too:


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