During my junior childhood years the headmaster at school often told stories during assemblies. I loved to listen to his stories. As an adult I now realise he drew upon Jewish and Muslim stories, as well as from Christian tradition and Celtic mythology.
He involved no flip chart, overhead projector, or piano, let alone any of the ‘aids’ teachers have available nowadays. It was just superb storytelling, often stories that showed morality, and always well pitched for his listeners.
One of his stories was about unhappy people whose spoons were too long to reach their own mouth contrasted with happy people who also had long spoons but who chose to feed each other. For weeks after hearing this story I tried to fall asleep with determination that, in the face of such a test, I would be a happy sharer. That is, after letting go of the image of people simply putting down the spoons.
A more sensible version of this story is included in the Bearfoot Book of Jewish Tales – the people are wearing splints on their arms so that they cannot bend them to their own mouths. And not only is ‘Heaven and Hell’ included in print but there is a CD as well. First I read it fro the book to my children but discovered an angel depicted so we chose to use the CD to enjoy it again … and again.
Our favourite story from the collection is the ‘Boy Who Prayed the Alphabet’ by cutting letters out of paper and throwing them into the air where they formed into sentences of prayers that his family and the whole congregation of worshippers recited.
For this story we used the CD but I showed my children its beautiful picture depicting people wearing Jewish prayer shawls and floating Hebrew letters. They seemed surprised by the letter shapes but I didn’t ask which alphabet of letters they’d imagined. I wanted them to enjoy the similarities between Islam and Judaism while quietly respecting differences.
With the Spring celebration of Purim just passed and with Passover arriving during early April, we’ve also read a couple of stories from the Temple Lamp and Other Stories. We were impressed to find that the ‘Story of Esther’ (a Purim story) and ‘Temple Lamp’ (actually a Hanukkah story) show inspiring examples of people revering and relying upon God in spite of violent persuasion to abandon their religion.
We couldn’t read the rest of the book because of pictures of prophets. But one of the excellent things about borrowing library books is that a half-read book still feels well used because it’s shared by lots of families.
Libraries don’t stock nearly enough religious picture books for my liking, however. I have just invested in a copy of Sammy Spider’s First Passover that I hope to share with my children over the next fortnight as a fun way to learn a little about Passover inside a Jewish home.
Insha’Allah I’ll let you know about it next week. For the moment we have a CD of Jewish tales we can listen to … again.
I am the author of Religious Rhyme Time, an Abrahamic children’s interfaith book, as well as Islamic Nursery Rhymes. I love eating chocolate while I write, and, with strictly chocolate-free fingers, I also create Muslim and interfaith children’s gifts for book people at my Etsy shop, BarakahBedtimesUK.
I’m on Twitter @elizabethlymer.
To follow/subscribe to this blog …[subscribe2]