Posts tagged " books "

Should my children go to prom?

April 27th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

“Will you go to Prom with me?” Countless teens ask every year about this undoubtedly scantily clad showcase for the (male) eyes, which I eschew as anti-holy behavior. I have a question, with two aspects.

  1. If my children are courting during the spring, should they be encouraged to attend, or taught to avoid it?
  2. If my children are NOT courting during this time, should they be allowed to accept or make an invitation for the date?

∼ Michael

Answer:

Dear Michael,

A young couple came with their newborn to ask their rabbi, “When should we start thinking about her education?” He replied, “You’re already about nine months behind schedule.” (more…)

I May Not Agree with What You Say…

July 12th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

My soon to be eight year old grandson has taken to peppering his conversation with phrases like, “Golly” and “That’s swell”. This is not surprising for those of us who know of his fascination with the Hardy Boys series. He is an avid reader and books expand his vocabulary (sometimes amusingly) as well as his knowledge of geography, history and so much more.

But danger as well as treasure can lurk in books.  While the Hardy brothers with their sense of responsibility, honesty and respect for law are welcomed into his home, his mother, the doorkeeper, keeps some other books out. Recently, supervision of reading material was a hot topic on a homeschool web discussion group to which she and I both belong. The fascinating and provocative exchange of ideas that shot across cyberspace is one of the reasons I stay on this group even though my own homeschooling days are over. 

To an outsider, the group would seem to be homogeneous; Jewish mothers and fathers who approach homeschooling from a Torah perspective. However, even within those parameters, differences emerged. Members passionately (homeschoolers tend to be passionate about anything having to do with their children) explained why they do – or don’t – allow their children to read various genres of literature; what types of books they prefer; and how strictly – or leniently – they impose their views on their children.

Despite the variety of opinions, respect for each other’s ideas permeated the conversation. Just the opposite took place when the Wall Street Journal’s children’s book reviewer, Meghan Cox Gurdon, wrote an article criticizing how dark young adult literature has become. While her point seemed a no-brainer to me since I long ago learned to steer clear of much of current young adult literature, it provoked a firestorm of controversy. As she wrote in her follow-up article, “If the American Library Association were inclined to burn people in effigy, I might well have gone up in smoke these past few days.” Many who disagreed with her engaged in personal attacks on her intelligence and character rather than her ideas. 

The contrast between the conversation on my homeschool group and the one sparked by the Journal article was stark. The fact that so many of the belligerent participants were young adult authors, librarians and teachers, seemed to me to be one more reason not to entrust one’s children to their influence. While, to their credit, some later offered apologies for their ad-hominem assaults, the vehemence and nastiness of the offensive suggested that Ms. Cox Gurdon was quite accurate when she said in opposition to crude and violent literature, “Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.”

 

A Little Less Library

August 31st, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

Sandy is a generous tipper. After a restaurant meal, you can count on her to leave not only money for the waiter but also a smile and a word of appreciation. Her sensitivity was developed the summer that she waited tables earning money for college.

When my own children attend a lecture or class at their synagogue they usually make a point of thanking the speaker. Their awareness was honed through years of watching their father prepare his Torah classes and realizing the amount of work that goes into a well delivered presentation.

There is nothing like first-hand experience to make one aware of the considerable work that leads to a successful activity. Even a smoothly moving line in a supermarket expresses thought and planning, but it takes shopping in a badly run store to recognize that fact.

In my case, first-hand experience led to a personal culture clash.  By nature and upbringing I am a library and used book aficionado. While there is a certain thrill in opening crisp pages, I rarely am willing to pay the premium price rather than wait until a book is more readily available. However, since my husband started writing books and especially since working with him has become my full time job, I am acutely sensitive to the difference when someone mentions to an author that he got his book from the library versus having bought it directly. It is not only the author’s livelihood which is impacted, though it certainly is.  More so, spending money on an item which has consumed hours of labor and sweat validates that effort.

So, despite the fact that both my purse and bookshelves audibly groan on a regular basis, in the last few years, when a book impacts my life, I find myself more willing to purchase it, even if as a gift for someone else. Like Sandy’s gesture to the waiter, it’s my way of acknowledging how much I benefitted from someone’s willingness to work.

(If you would like to find out more about my husband’s books and our audio CD programs, you can find them here.

Frigates, Coursers and Librarians

May 17th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

 

I didn’t recognize any of the people working at my community’s library today. I still get surprised when that happens. Despite being aware of the policy changes that were instituted a while back, I just cannot get accustomed to not knowing the staff.

 

Over the years, our library system has announced a number of “new and improved” policies. Sometimes, the change is a good one, as when card catalogues became computerized. Other times, I have to wonder why anyone wanted to tinker with a successfully functioning system.

 

When our county declared that librarians were going to rotate through the branches, rather than be assigned permanent positions, there was an attempt to explain how beneficial this would be. Both librarians and patrons would be better served. I didn’t get it.

 

To my shame and regret, I didn’t plan a protest rally. I didn’t even express my dismay to the local newspaper’s editor or to the “Friends of the Library” fundraising group. That reflected a busy life, not a lack of concern.

 

For years, my children and I spent hours each week at the library. We attended programs and special classes, but most of all we roamed the shelves and checked out books. Over time, the librarians learned of each of my children’s unique interests and abilities. Frequently, they recommended books, assisted them in research projects and in general, became part of their educational support network. The library was our greatest resource for homeschooling material and it was also friendly to our budget.

 

Had there been no easy access to a library my children would have still been surrounded by books. They would have still had adults in their lives encouraging them to read and pointing them in the direction of worthwhile material. Not all children are so fortunate.

 

The public library system offers the gift of books to all. Through the generations librarians have been the interface to those books for scores of immigrants or neglected children.

 

Today, I can reserve books online, check myself out using a computer, and never interact with a human being. If I do have a question, anyone working behind the desk can answer it. I can even type it in my computer and never exchange a word with a person. That’s fine for me, though I certainly prefer to see familiar faces and share greetings. But for a child for whom the library serves as a haven and a doorway into a better future, the computer cannot replace a living person expressing interest in his life. A strange face each time she visits means there is no one to notice that she has read a particularly challenging book or prefers non-fiction to fiction. Libraries should exude welcome and comfort, not impersonal bureaucracy.

 

As Emily Dickinson said:

 

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

 

Not only books, but librarians as well, are capable of being chariots. I have no idea what the government officials who instituted the rotating librarian policy were thinking. It would be lovely if they would think again.