Children love listening to stories. Whether they’re family stories told around the table, or books read aloud before bedtime or in a group with peers, stories are powerful ways of communication for young people.

Ann Koffsky, an editor at Apples & Honey Press, points out that “our Jewish tradition is full of stories. It starts with the Torah and continues with the Aggadah and Midrashim in the Talmud.” Storytelling is also part of our more modern tradition with the Haggadah on Passover and the stories of Chassidic masters, like the Baal Shem Tov and Rebbe Nachman.

In The Secret of Happy Families, author Bruce Feiler describes research findings that “knowing stories of their family and the history of their family is best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.” When we tell our children the traditional stories that have been handed down to us from generation to generation, we are not just transmitting a code of behavior, we are also connecting our children to the essence of who they are.

Picture books provide a simple, efficient vehicle to tell stories that can easily be used with children of many ages in both the classroom and at home. Young children benefit from hearing stories read aloud and by responding to questions about what they observe, and older students also benefit from reading and analyzing on their own or with a group.

When it comes to the High Holidays, however, the Torah comes up short on narratives for children. Using a picture book with a new and modern story that reflects the themes of the holiday is a wonderful way to use the storytelling technique. Apples & Honey Press has the following High Holiday titles that can be used to teach about the holidays.

Big Sam: A Rosh Hashanah Tall Tale, by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Jim Starr, tells the story of Sam, a Paul Bunyan-esque figure who makes a special giant round challah for Rosh Hashanah, using the natural environment of the American West. Perfect for reading aloud, "matching Rosh Hashanah with an appreciation of the natural world is an inspired choice," says the Jewish Book Council

Yom Kippur Shortstop, by David Adler and illustrated by Andre Ceolin, is about Jacob’s decision to go to his championship game on Yom Kippur, and what he learns about the importance of the day. Inspired by Sandy Koufax, who sat out a 1965 World Series game on Yom Kippur.

Little Red Rosie, by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Monica Gutierrez, takes a playful version of The Little Red Hen and makes it into Rosie and her process of making Rosh Hashanah challah with the help of her three (bird) friends.

Sky-High Sukkah, by Rachel Packer and illustrated by Deborah Zemke, tells the story of Leah’s dream of having a sukkah for her family’s apartment, and how she, with the help of her friends and community, make that dream come true.

Enjoy your holidays, and have a happy, sweet new year!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and connect with us on social media!