Lessons For Shavuot: Books About Following the Rules

Shavuot, the holiday that comes seven weeks after the start of Passover, was originally a harvest festival. Today it helps mark the end of the counting of the Omer and is celebrated as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. 

While any time of year works to reinforce lessons about being a good citizen, or a mensch, Shavuot’s connection to the Ten Commandments offers a wonderful opportunity to discuss the importance of following  rules that keep children and their friends safe and happy. Your conversations don’t have to be overly serious--you can kick off a discussion over ice cream and cheese blintzes by using one of the books in this list. 

Avi the Ambulance Goes to School by Claudia Carlson

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

Avi is a little ambulance who lives in Israel. What does an ambulance learn when he goes to school? How to help others! Readers will learn about important Jewish values along with Avi in this fun story.

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet

Recommended for ages 7 to 8

Just because Clara Lemlich is a young immigrant doesn’t mean she’s going to let factory owners treat workers poorly. After all, equality and a fair shot is what America is all about -- and no one understands that better than this brave girl.

Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller

Recommended for ages 7 to 8

When a family of otters moves in next to Mr. Rabbit, he’s a little nervous -- he’s not sure if they’ll get along. But then he remembers the Golden Rule: Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you! This book shows how treating others with respect is the basis of friendship, cooperation, and sharing.

Estie the Mensch by Jane Kohuth and Rosanne Litzinger

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

Estie does not always know how to be around other people and sometimes when her grandmother reminds her to be a mensch, she'd rather not. She'd prefer to be a turtle or a seagull. Eventually, something happens that shows her grandmother and Estie herself what a mensch the girl can really be.

The Hardest Word by Jacqueline Jules and Katherine Janus Kahn

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

The Ziz, a clumsy and big-hearted bird, asks God for advice after accidentally destroying a vegetable garden. From this, Ziz learns the importance of an apology.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Recommended for ages 6 to 7

Lilly loves her purse -- but when she disrupts class with it, her teacher has to take it away for a while. Lilly doesn't react so well... and soon she's going to have to learn how to say two of the most important words: "I'm sorry."

No Rules for Michael by Sylvia A. Rouss and Susan Simon

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

When the teacher gives Michael and his preschool class a day without rules, the children learn what it would be like if there were no rules to follow.

Red, Blue and Yellow Yarn by Miriam R. Kosman

Recommended for ages 3 to 8

When his grandmother comes to visit, Donny feels as if he’s constantly getting into trouble. His grandmother seems to have so many rules, and Donny inadvertently breaks almost every one of her rules. When Donny accidently tangles his grandmother’s yarn, his grandmother abandons her stern demeanor and lovingly comes to his aid. While helping Donny untangle the yarn, Donny’s grandmother recounts stories from her own childhood, gently teaching Donny that all children make mistakes, and those who love them (especially their grandparents) are always willing to forgive children’s errors and help them grow through their mistakes.

What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street by Elsa Okon Rael and Marjorie Priceman

Recommended for ages 6 to 8

In the early 1900s on the Lower East Side, a seven-year-old girl learns lessons of community, generosity, and courage from the Jewish immigrant population.

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