Israel in Picture Books

March 5, 2020

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


How do Jewish educators navigate the multiple demands of their work in Israel education, especially when the target audience is young children?

Sivan Zakai, a scholar and researcher of Israel education for young children, suggests three things when it comes to Israel education and early ages:

  • Transparency: Hiding information from children is not only futile, it also leaves children with excess anxiety and no outlet for clarifying information.
  • Discussion: It is vital to establish a healthy dialogue about difficult subjects with children of all ages in order to promote feelings of security.
  • Trust in children’s ability to understand complex information: Difficult topics cannot be changed but can be reframed in an age-appropriate manner.
  • Picture books can serve as a powerful resource for teaching children in a meaningful way about Israel and can help children understand core concepts and what they mean. Most of all, stories serve as a jumping-off point for sincere and open conversation.

What makes picture books so appealing and effective in teaching children?

  • Pictures and illustrations shape children’s first impressions of a book.
  • The picture books teach children about the world and about themselves.
  • Picture books introduce signs and symbols, which enhance abstract thinking.
  • Reading picture books to children allows adults to revisit the books they read as children and see them through children’s eyes.
  • How to choose picture books about Israel? Consider the following questions.
    • What are the lenses through which Israel is being shown to children?
    • What does the book tell children about Israeli society?
    • Who are the people we meet through the story?
    • Which places do the children see in the book?
    • What issues are presented?

If we educators are serious about educating for understanding, we need to treat children with respect and acknowledge the fact that they can think in a sophisticated way. We need to choose teaching materials that present Israel in a thought-provoking, complex manner and educate children about tolerance and understanding of differences among people. Picture books can help in changing perceptions about Israel and all its citizens.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Mar. 11, 2020