Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Av 5760 - August 3, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Parenting with Menucha -
A New Series Dealing with Everyday Issues

by Menucha Fuchs

Menucha is the popular author of sixty children's books, eleven of which have already appeared in English, and a new textbook Reader, "Sha'a Shel Menucha," for schools abroad.

Enrichment Through Stories


A child is capable of hearing and listening the moment he is born. His attentiveness is reflected in his eyes. An eight- month-old baby will, with his infantile gaze, follow our gestures as we read to him. A one-year-old who has been trained to listen to stories will goggle as we tell him a story, wordlessly proclaiming: Ima, Abba, more.

The importance of the story for children is incontestable. Stories create intense bonds between the story-teller and the listener, and are prime factors in education.

Most of us don't spend much time fussing over the cute creatures lolling in their cribs at the outskirts of our homes outside of feeding. The majority of us have other children who demand either passive or active attention. And so, the tiny tots become part of the decor. Only at night, when they are fast asleep, do we marvel at their angelic faces, and realize that we hardly had any initiated personal contact with them the entire day.

The conscious and purposeful bond formed by even only a few minutes of storytelling, perhaps more than once a day -- even the eye contact alone, and make sure this is frequent -- creates a positive relationship between parent and infant, initiated by the parent. It imbues the infant with the sense that if he doesn't cry, he still is wanted, and that if he doesn't scream, he will nonetheless be answered. He learns to associate storytelling with a cozy home ambiance.

An Inexpensive Game

Storytelling is an experience all parents can provide for free. A baby will listen to a story, even if we haven't bought him an expensive book. We can make up a story about a teddy bear, or even a rag doll or an animal whose picture we have cut out of a magazine. Simple, inexpensive books with clear pictures will also do the trick.

We don't have to travel long distances in order to tell a story. Stories are accessible whenever we feel like telling them. We merely have to develop our imaginations, and with a bit of inventiveness and ingenuity, can convey whatever messages we please, simplifying them to suit the child's age and needs. By means of a story, a child learns new concepts and words, amasses knowledge and improves his language skills. Most important, of course, is the enjoyment the child derives and the attention given to him from this totally positive pursuit.

Stories Develop Patience and Attention Span

By telling children stories from the time they are very young, even before we think they understand, we help them acquire the trait of patience, or attention span, as well as the skills of imitating and listening, which are so essential for success in kindergarten and school. But in order to help our children develop the trait of patience, we must adapt the level of the story and its content to their needs. We mustn't attempt to convey profound messages, or force them to listen for too long, nor should we tell them stories they dislike, such as hackneyed or frightening ones.

Infants like light stories which contain many repetitive phrases and recurring rhymes, as well as those accompanied by sound effects. They also like finger games and stories based on pictures of a few clear objects.


* It's a pity to give your children the impression that stories are meant to divert their attention from their meals. The plane will land (maybe not in their mouths, but surely on the runway), even if they don't eat.

* The moment a child knows how to paste and color, you can make picture books along with him (and then he can `read' them alone, or to his baby brother). Examples are: books containing pictures of objects, books whose pictures depict various sequential activities, such as Ima standing at the doorstep, Ima searching for her key, Ima unlocking the door, Ima entering the house with a smile. These books can also contain pictures to be colored. While reading them, parents should ask their children questions and urge them to describe what they see. Such activity will train children to be inquisitive and observing, to like pictures and speech, and of course, books.


What is the difference between a story told by a parent, and one heard from a tape? The story is Ima herself. And Ima must learn to evoke response and feedback, as she tells. Children enjoy participating in the storytelling, themselves, while a tape is an inanimate object which happens to issue coherent sounds.

Older children also like stories of the `Ima Tells,' or `Bubby Tells' type, true stories relating to their past. These are very nostalgic, and both children and parents enjoy them. Tell about yourself as a child, your children when they were younger, your teachers, your parents, how things were different in the past. (Just be careful not to reveal other people's secrets.)


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