Some kids need endless amounts of reading material. But how do you know what’s kosher or not? We’ve read all the books so you don’t have to.
By Alisa Avruch
They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
When my friend and I started pre-reading our children’s books 20 years ago, we never dreamed that one day we would have a list of over 4000 books. We never imagined that we would have detailed summaries and comments for nearly all of them. And only in our wildest dreams could we envision our own website where frum parents could search for books for their kids.
Kosherbooks started with a humble mission: to provide our own kids with books that were appropriate, and (as much as possible) did not contradict our hashkafos and value system. Using Rivky Kaganoff’s list as our starting point, we checked our own kids’ selections which were not included in her directory. We quickly learned from experience that the front book flap is not the most complete source of information; if we wanted to monitor our kids’ reading, it was up to us to actually plow through each and every book.
Fortunately for us, we are both bookworms and love to read. While there were some books we struggled to get through (Moby Dick, anyone?), for the most part it was a matter of finding the time–so we discovered some spare hours lying around and tacked them onto our hectic days (just kidding–stray story book device there).
With the encouragement of our Rav, we did our best to make Kosherbooks available to other frum parents and educators. After over 10 years and over 10,000 downloads of our list on Chinuch.org, we are now zoche to the invaluable (and sometimes superhuman) services of our web designer Margalit Brown, who burned the midnight LEDs to provide busy parents like you with a priceless resource: a searchable website complete with comments and recommendations for over 4400 books (and counting!).
It is our great privilege to share some of the books that we have come across through the years. As problem-free books are exceedingly rare, and since personal standards vary, we also include here “questionable” books and encourage parents to check out the full reviews on Kosherbooks.org
10 Timeless Favorites That You Can Share With Your Own Kids
You surely remember the imaginary vistas of your childhood, inhabited by the intrepid characters of your favorite books: Winnie the Pooh, Cam Jansen, Laura Ingalls, and Nancy Drew. When it came to sharing our childhood favorites with our kids, we found that in the glaring lights of 21st century, we re-read those classics with new, sharper lenses. To what extent did we want our kids exposed to mild, childish romance? Warm and mushy descriptions of non-Jewish holidays? Unrefined language and midos? Here are a few of your childhood favorites that you may wish to share with your kids. Please check out full reviews on Kosherbooks.org for complete details on any book or series.
Encyclopedia Brown (Daniel J. Sobel) – the boy detective challenges young readers to solve mysteries along with him.
The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner) – Orphaned siblings go on adventures and solve mysteries. Some holiday mentions.
Stuart Little (E. B. Webb) – Mouse adopted by humans. Some very mild holidays and boy/girl.
Bedknob and Broomstick (Mary Norton) – Kids have magical adventure. Very mild romance at the end.
The Indian in the Cupboard (Lynne Reid Banks) – Boy has adventures with toy Indian that comes alive. Sequels have some slight issues – see list.
Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon) / Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene)– The teenage prodigies solve mysteries that adults somehow miss. In both series, main characters have boyfriend/girlfriends – see comments on individual books. More recent books in both series are much more problematic.
Heidi (Johanna Spyri) – Classic story of girl brought up on mountain by eccentric grandfather. Some mild religion.
The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) A lonely unsociable child is sent to live with her hunchback uncle. Minor religion.
The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) – The classic fantasy. Mild language and holiday. Sequel The Lord of the Rings trilogy has some mild issues – see reviews.
What are YOUR kids reading? Look up the book on Kosherbooks.org: Let the reading begin!
Alisa Avruch is a book addict and freelance writer. She writes features and personal reflections for Binah Magazine, and is currently starting a copywriting business for healthcare and homecare websites.