Children's and YA (curated by Association of Jewish Libraries)

The following list was curated by Linda R. Silver of the Association of Jewish Libraries. AJL promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The Association fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel. 

AJL Reading List AJL Reading List (38 KB)


Young Children | Intermediate LevelTeens

By Linda R. Silver

The values we hold and practice help define our identity as Jews. The values we pass on help to ensure future Jewish generations. Children, as John Dewey taught the first cadres of American Jewish educators, learn by doing. So when they learn the Sabbath blessings in school or help their families welcome guests to a holiday meal, they are doing (and learning) the Jewish values of honoring the Sabbath, welcoming guests, and feeding the hungry. When they contribute coins to the Sunday School pushke or gather up some of their toys to give to a homeless shelter, they are doing the acts of righteousness called tzedakah. When they decide to share something they love with their siblings or classmates, they are acting on the guidance of their yetzer tov (good impulse) instead of their yetzer hara (bad impulse).

Considering the differences in observance and practice that exist among American Jews, there’s no guarantee that every Jewish child will have values-rich experiences. So the custom of reading books - at home at bedtime, during a family together time, as a private past-time or in school during library story hours, classroom reading sessions, or as silent reading - becomes ever-more important as a means of transmitting Jewish values to Jewish children. By the very act of reading – which involves engagement with the shape and movement of the story; feelings of empathy for the characters; identification with the story’s characters setting, or action; fascination with the pictures and other graphic elements – children become active participants in the creation of meaning that comes with reading. A wise adult will encourage children to become active participants in a story by inviting discussion at critical points, asking for children’s comments about a character’s thoughts or actions, urging readers to imagine themselves as a part of the story. But even without this adult mediation, a good story will reach out all by itself and grab children’s intellectual, emotional, and spiritual attention. So, by the blessings of reading and understanding given to humans, Jewish values are transmitted to today’s young Jews, no matter how deep or how shallow their immersion in Judaism at home or at school may be.

The books described here are rich in Jewish values expressed through robust stories, strong characters, vivid settings, lively writing, and important themes. Many of them are winners of the two most important awards for Jewish children’s literature: the National Jewish Book Award and the Sydney Taylor Book Award. They are on subjects that include the Bible, contemporary Jewish life, folklore, graphic novels, historical fiction, holidays, the Holocaust, immigrant life, and Israel. At the risk of sounding dogmatic, they are books that all Jewish children should read before they grow up. Their Jewish identity will be strengthened through the values they absorb through the stories and their Jewish literacy will be enhanced by the insights imparted in the informational books. Seekers after more recommended Jewish books for youth are advised to consult the two guides written by the author of this article, which are listed below. A world rich in Yiddishkeit awaits!

Linda R. Silver is a specialist in Jewish children’s literature. She is editor of the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Jewish Valuesfinder,, and author of Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens: A JPS Guide (The Jewish Publication Society, 2010) and The Jewish Values Finder: A Guide to Values in Jewish Children’s Literature (Neal-Schuman, 2008).

Young Children

Intermediate Level