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Kids' Books That Matter: Lashon Hara/Gossiping

July 3, 2014

We recently started getting People magazine as part of a “trade airline miles for subscriptions” deal. Because I did not have a lot of miles with this particular airline, People was about my only choice. We are also looking into purchasing a television—after not having a television in our home for over five years—primarily because I want to see the new Outlander series on Starz. (Outlander is a series of books by Diana Gabaldone that I have gone completely nuts over. )

People magazine and a television set…I am a bit worried about having all of that “information” in my home. The fact is that they do not deliver the kind of information I think I need in my home and I am asking myself if we need access to this particular type of information at all. We already get two newspapers, and I can find anything I want to know on the internet. As I see it, there is a lot of gossip delivered by both of these media, and I am not helping the situation by subscribing. We will not be renewing our People subscription. The television, well…

Lashon Hara (literally, “Bad tongue”) or Gossiping is a major Jewish values “no-no.” Both the teller AND the listener are at fault if someone is “telling tales” about another person. The fact is, as with a game of telephone, one never knows if what you are saying/hearing is the truth or some misrepresentation of the actual facts. This holds true for a magazine reporter, a television broadcaster or your sister-in-law. Still, who among us does not want to know why the police car was in front of the neighbor’s house, why our friend’s children never come home from college or the reason for your aunt’s sudden hostility toward your mother?

Life being what it is, the Rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud noted that everyone will violate the rule against Lashon Hara/Gossiping at least once a day. Still, if we attempt to think and act according to the Golden Rule, perhaps we will not walk into a room one day and hear our friends discussing our personal business amongst themselves.

Happy Reading!

Here is a list of great books to teach your children about the power of Lashon Hara/Gossiping:

Book coverHen Hears Gossip by Megan McDonald. Illustrated by Joung Un Kim
©2008. Greenwillow Press. Ages 3-8.

Just like a game of telephone, when Hen overhears that “the dog has a thorn!” the news passes from one animal to another until it comes right back to Hen as “You’re lazy, fat and ate all the corn!” An important lesson in passing along “news” and sure to have the kids giggling.
 

Book coverA Sack Full of Feathers by Debby Waldman. Illustrated by Cindy Ravell.
©2006. Orca Book Publishers. Ages 4-8.

Yankel loves to spread the rumors he hears in his father’s store. When one day the rabbi hears him talking about some women who had fought over fabric, he invites Yankel over to his home. There he asks Yankel to take a pillow and drop one feather on the porch of each of the village’s residents. When Yankel returns to the rabbi after completing his task, the rabbi then asks him to go back and pick up each feather and return it. This being impossible, Yankel learns a lesson about the price of spreading rumors.

Book coverTimmerman Was Here by Colleen Sydor. Illustrated by Nicolas Debon.
©2009. Tundra Books. Ages 4-8.

When the mysterious Mr. Timmerman moves into the room her grandpa just left, the little girl does not want to like him at all. But he turns out to be kind, sweet and gentle. Nevertheless, the townspeople circulate rumors about him when because he goes out at night with a sack and a shovel. What is he doing? After he leaves, the girl and the town discover the truth about Mr. Timmerman and regret their judgment of him.

book coverTrouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig. Illustrated by Mikela Prevost.
©2008. Tricycle Press. Ages 6-9.

Maya is picked to be the new girl, Bailey’s Welcome Buddy. They get along great, until Bailey begins to talk about the other kids in the school. First, she is mean to a girl at a slumber party. Then she overhears some not-to-be-repeated information and shares it with everyone on the playground. When she hears Maya’s parents quarreling during a play date, Bailey spreads a rumor that Maya’s parents are getting divorced. That is the last straw for Maya and she goes to a teacher for help. Bullying comes in many forms and this is a book that can teach children about “mean kids” and how to deal with them.

Hebrew for "instruction" or "learning," a central text of Judaism, recording the rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history. It has two parts: Mishnah (redacted c. 200 CE) and Gemara (c. 500 CE), an elucidation of the Mishnah.
Kathy Bloomfield

Kathy Bloomfield founded the website forwordsbooks: kids' books that matter in 2009 to highlight and review kids' books that promote Jewish values. Once again, a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, Kathy previews children's books as they are published and searches for classics and those undiscovered gems filled with meaning for today's readers. She writes about them here, at JewishBoston.com, on her website forwordsbooks.com and elsewhere. For more information or for book guidance for your family, please email Kathy at kathyb@forwordsbooks.com.

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