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
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
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
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