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Three New Helps for Limudei Kodesh

It seems that the best I can say about Limudei Kodesh (Jewish studies) resources is that they’re not completely appalling.  With that in mind, I browsed the shelves in a couple of local bookstores today and came away with the following:

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imageThe first two are written by Seymour Rossel, the author who wrote Introduction to Jewish History, the book I’ve tentatively bought for Jewish history.  Well, I really did buy it, but I’m tentative because it’s not an extraordinary book.  It’s only, as I said, not completely appalling

The pictures are very dated, but on the other hand, they’re not badly done, and the text is written – not by a committee – but by a single author who seems passionate about his subject. 

I’m hoping, really hoping, that counts for more than up-to-dateness (up-to-date-itude?), especially in books about the Tanach.  I bought the Torah and Tanach books used online because they were much cheaper than getting them locally. Now I’m worried, though, because there are quite a few write-in games and exercises (crossword puzzles and things) and I fear the books will be all scribbly when they arrive.  :-(

imageI’m kind of excited about the Llama one, though!  The stories in our Migdalor book, Kriyah v’Od, Part 2, are getting kind of tedious.  There are only so many knapsacks (tikim) and new children (yeladim) one can have in a classroom (kitah) before one begins to crave a bit more by way of vocabulary and storytelling.

image(and a bit less by way of glitz and cheerfully, colourfully AWFUL illustrations)

Yesh Lanu Lama, which I bought in the actual store today, because it wasn’t very much money, features black-and-white illustrations which are – what can I say? – not completely appalling.

The stories use a repetitive vocabulary in the same way that English controlled-phonics primers start with a very basic vocabulary, but build from one story to the next.  New words are given on the page in Hebrew only, which I like, called out in a neat little box in the corner.  (though the vocabulary includes such helpful Hebrew phrases as “ooh-la-la” – ugh)

The books themselves – there’s a second reader in the series - follow the adventures of Shiri, a little classroom llama who makes life just slightly more exciting than in the knapsack-and-pencil world of Kriyah v’Od.  Here are sample pages from book one (left) and book two (right).  You can see that the stories do become more complex, and the font size smaller, as kids’ reading progresses.

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What these books are completely – and refreshingly! – missing are the cloying questions at the end of every story in the Kriyah v’Od and other Hebrew reading books, designed to test comprehension but which really just involve looking back and regurgitating lines or words from the story.  I’m not loving that part of it, and it’s nice to see a book that is confident enough that kids can read and understand without being grilled afterwards.

imageWe’re certainly not going to STOP using Kriyah v’Od, but I think when we reach the end of Book 2, we’ll probably be MORE than okay with a combination of:

  • a good reading primer (maybe the Llama books, maybe something else; whatever works)
  • a handwriting text (I already have Handwriting Without Tears – Hebrew, K’tav b’Kalut)
  • a “chagim” book (I have Migdalor already)
  • the grammar we’re covering for Chumash in L’shon HaTorah (which is mostly the same, at this stage, as modern Hebrew grammar)
  • Bright Beginnings, our Chumash workbook

The only thing this eliminates is those cloying written quizzes and exercises, but because she’ll still be doing weekly parsha & other copywork, along with practice exercises in K’tav b’Kalut, I think she won’t suffer overly much from a lack of answering questions about the stories she’s reading.

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