I love it when my kids learn to read. It’s such a turning point in their lives; they will start to gain some control over what information they absorb and you the parent, however, will gain a rear-passenger voiceover person. “Daaad, have you had an accident at work? ….I think that sign said you should stop.”
As young members of the tribe, they inherit a legacy of literacy that comprises liturgy, liturgy as poetry and song, and a wealth of history and culture written in beautiful Hebrew. We want them to read, pray and understand themselves in the original Hebrew, so they can uncover something new and fascinating every day.
And yes, then there’s Anim Zmirot, aka naches time. Traditionally, a young child, pre-bar mitzvah, leads the congregation in reciting this lyrical poem at the end of Shachrit on Shabbat morning, because it is thought that only a child is pure enough to sing these verses. Shyer children tend not to want to lead the prayer so some communities have started practice sessions so every mother can gaze across the shul with pride years before any bar mitzvah prep has started.
But you need to be able to read and while the process of gaining this life skill can be incredibly rewarding and even amusing for parents: “Mooom, why is the morah asking for a samurai?” “No dear, that says summary.” It can also be incredibly frustrating for both parent and child, as we have to invariably tick boxes in one year in two languages.
Luckily, Ji Tap is here for your low pressure, auto-didactic solutions! Our Alef-Bet series is great for beginner to intermediate readers. We have all the letters of the Alef Bet in videos and interactive game format—a Jewish Starfall. Your children can teach themselves and they are competing only against themselves, there are no boxes to tick; it’s just pure learning through fun during a long summer vacation. Whether your child is in kindergarten or first grade, he or she can use this series to be ahead for much needed revision in the summer break brain drain.
There are broad overview songs that can go on your road trip playlist. (Yeah, good luck with that.) There are games for every letter and level that appeal to a child’s innate sense of fun and will simultaneously tackle how to form that letter, not just recognize it. An example: “Alef has lost her voice, so she visits Dr. Rofeh, who prescribes her special medicine to give her a voice: kamatz, patach and chataf patach vowels. Learners drag the 'medicine' under Alef, and test out her voice. “ Notice how Hebrew words are used over and over so the child becomes familiar with them. Simple words like Rofeh and Aba become part of their lexicon as they’re learning to read, like sight words employed in learning English.
The child hears, sees, speaks, forms…and giggles. The letter Hey, says wait for me! because he only has half a leg… And Kaf takes cough drops to account for the extra dot that makes her say ‘k’ and not ‘ch’! The whole letter sequence is delightfully all-method encompassing and perfect for vacation app time.
You might think intermediate and more advanced readers are neglected, but oh no, there are plenty of practice games for them to browse, choose and get their share of iPad time. They can even get ahead and think about shul prayers and procedure. If reading is the gift that keeps on giving then Anim Zemirot is your parental thank you note and receipt.