From a young age, even before they become literate, children learn to recognize their world, explain their actions and describe their experiences in narratives. They invent stories about themselves and their surroundings, and put these events in a structure that is often found in the narrative genre. Hebrew literacy is connected through similar experiences, as children develop expressive Hebrew language and reading skills in the early years. Recent research has shown that studying a second language early, boosts a child’s brainpower, vocabulary and self-esteem. Hebrew is a language with structure and rhythm. Using complete Hebrew sentences helps children learn the structure of the language and not just a list of vocabulary words.
It is important to create a positive attitude towards Hebrew from the start. Hebrew is an integral part of our Jewish culture. It connects us to Israel, to the Torah, to other Jewish texts, and to people around the world. At Olam Jewish Montessori Early Childhood Center, we weave Hebrew into our everyday lives, helping children become comfortable with the language. Using the Montessori approach, children are exposed to Hebrew letters and words through the use of miniature objects that correspond to the sounds and words that they are learning. Adoption of this multi-sensory, child-centered approach means taking into account that children differ from one another in their linguistic levels, their capabilities, learning styles, strengths and challenges. Children naturally love to learn and should also be introduced to Hebrew in an organic and fun way.
The children’s ability to accept and understand Hebrew Language comes as they progress through the year. Initially, the children are exposed to spontaneous language, words and phrases, that are repeated throughout the day at certain times. During circle time, snack, story time or creative play, teachers can use Hebrew sentences, songs, music and words in print, to incorporate the bilingual Hebrew approach. As the children become progressively more familiar and comfortable hearing, understanding and responding in Hebrew, it becomes a more natural part of their thought process and learning. By reading stories, dancing to Israeli music, using props and acting out short skits children become engaged in fun and meaningful ways.
Engaging children in Hebrew language early will naturally give them the beauty of our heritage.
Dawn Kreisberg M.A. is the Director of Olam Jewish Montessori Early Childhood Center and educational leader in Jewish education.