Packaged together, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur add up to the High Holidays. But they’re pretty different, to say the least.
Rosh Hashanah is one of those holidays that’s easy to celebrate with your kids. You dip some apples in honey, maybe bake some challah, and before you know it you’ve had a lot of fun celebrating the Jewish new year.
Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is perhaps the hardest holiday to explain to your kids. A fast day in which Jews atone for all of their sins of the previous year? That’s kind of a tough concept for the 5 and under crowd. (Especially the whole not-eating part.)
So here are some books you can read with your kids to get ready for the High Holidays. Some are more celebratory (like Rosh Hashanah) and others deal with serious issues like forgiveness (a la Yom Kippur).
Chag sameach—a happy holiday!
1. Apples and Honey
By Joan Holub
This lift-the-flap book is perfect for little hands that love to open, shut, push, and pull. It’s the story of two children exploring the traditions and activities of Rosh Hashanah, from apples and honey to the shofar. Though it’s designed for kids ages 4 and up, those flaps are so much fun that it’s worth buying for your littler ones too. Instead of reading it word for word, you can always talk about what you see on the page to make this book age appropriate.
2. Sammy Spider’s First Rosh Hashanah
By Sylvia A. Rouss
If you’re new to the Sammy Spider series, you’ll see that these books are a great way to introduce kids to a holiday. In each book, Sammy Spider observes the actions of the Shapiro family and always wants to join in the fun. This book reviews all of the symbols of Rosh Hashanah and how the holiday is celebrated. It’s actually a great refresher for us parents too!
3. The World’s Birthday
By Barbara Diamond Goldin
In this story, a little boy wants to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the world’s birthday, in the best way he knows how: by throwing a birthday party! The idea is so contagious that before you know it, you may find yourself singing Happy Birthday World at your own Rosh Hashanah dinner. This book is designed for kids 3 and older.
4. Sound the Shofar: A Story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
By Leslie Kimmelman
This book uses the shofar (a ram’s horn that’s blown on the High Holidays) as a way to cover both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in an accessible story. Though it’s aimed at 3- to 5-year-olds, we think that if you make the sounds of the shofar along with the book, even toddlers will find it fun to read.
5. The Hardest Word
By Jacqueline Jules
This Yom Kippur story revolves around a bird named the Ziz, who makes a big mistake and then can’t figure out how to get forgiveness for it. He discovers that the hardest words to say are “I’m sorry.” It’s actually a great lesson for all of us, but especially for kids who are starting to discover that there are consequences to their actions: like 2-year-olds.