In celebration of Jewish Book Month, here are some suggestions for fostering critical literacy skills and igniting a lifelong love of reading in your child:
It's been said that when it comes to raising children, the days go slow and the years go fast. As I find myself in the thick of planning my second son's bar mitzvah, these words ring all too true.
The change was subtle but undeniable. A slightly deeper shade of brown; carrots cut lengthwise rather than sliced; some scattered sprigs of rosemary. Any other day of the year, such a discrete rift in recipe might have gone unnoticed. But this was not any other day of the year -- this was Rosh Hashanah.
Going to overnight camp for the first time. It is -- in many circles -- a Jewish rite of passage. Unlike becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, however, the perfect timing for transitioning from day camper to overnight camper is not preordained; on the contrary, it can vary significantly from child to child.
Save the few Web sites with supertight security (most of which are considered too babyish by tweens and up), worry resounds throughout kiddie cybersocial world. While parental e-mail consent may be required before activating a child's registration, there's no way for a Web site to determine whether the e-mailed permission is indeed linked to a parent.
As my son's bar mitzvah day inched closer, I began to see the world in a whole different light -- a disco ball light, to be exact -- for as my child grew, so did his friends, officially putting us both on the b'nai mitzvah circuit.
How do we enlighten our concrete-thinking kiddies to the fact that -- despite popular playground belief -- money doesn't grow in ATM machines? With the Spend/Save/Tzedakah plan, of course!
Fortunately, it's perfectly possible to plan a kid-friendly birthday bash without compromising our values, sanity and pocketbook. All it takes is a little panning for gold.
It's a scene straight out of the worst-case scenario parent handbook. Our child -- a normally happy student -- lands the "Teacher From the Black Lagoon." She's evil, he tells us shaking in his Air Jordans. Not to mention out to get him. How can he possibly be expected to learn when his teacher is the scholastic version of Attila the Hun?
When we think of bar and bat mitzvah gifts, many things come to mind: fountain pens, cuff links, picture frames, checks. But the true gifts of this religious rite of passage extend far beyond the envelopes and boxes piled up at the party door.
It's not that glitz, glamour and secular themes at b'nai mitzvah are inherently problematic, like in the soon-to-be-released one-upsmanship film, "Keeping Up With the Steins," but when they're inadequately balanced with Jewish values we can be left with an empty shell of a party that undermines the entire point of these meaningful milestones.
I was about to inquire how they could manage to consistently laugh like fiends each time they saw Stu dress up like Latke Man, but stopped short upon realizing that they could easily turn the question back on me. You see, I'm no stranger to repetition myself, having managed to spend Thanksgiving on Hilton Head Island every year since I was in first grade.
It starts with a tireless trek to the mall in search of that stylish synagogue suit. Next comes the culinary juggling act, simultaneously preparing Aunt Sophie's tzimmes, Bubbe's killer kugel and a 22-pound turkey, dressed and trimmed. The last step is grooming an entire family and shuffling the whole gang out the door and into the synagogue in under an hour.
Brandon was 3 the first time another mother called me to schedule a playdate.
"A playdate," I giggled. "That's so clever! Did you make that up yourself?" (The dead silence on the other end of the phone clued me in that I had just made a monumental maternal faux pas that could potentially rival my last monumental maternal faux pas of offering up a bag of artificially colored/flavored Cheetos -- rather than the au natural variety -- to my son's playgroup.) The other mother suddenly had a dire emergency and promised to call back. She didn't.
For parents of squirmy kids, a Passover seder can seem longer than the 40 years our ancestors spent wandering through the desert. Fortunately, all it takes is a little forethought and creativity to keep the younger set from getting as jumpy as the frogs in Pharaoh's bed at the big event.