Debbie Lafond discusses the Hanukkah tradition of the eight candles of the menorah to the children who attended a recent storytime at the Pelham Library.
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

PELHAM — “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay. When it’s dry and ready dreidel I will play…” The group of toddlers sat with their legs folded and eyes focused on children’s librarian Debbie Lafond as she sang the words to the catchy Jewish song.

Four-year-old Payton Hamlin mouthed the words. Her pigtails bounced from shoulder to shoulder as she bobbed her head to the tune.

Lafond said it is important to teach children about other cultures, so twice each week she incorporates a lesson on a different region into her children’s storytime program at the Public Library.

“It is something I feel is important since we live in such a diverse community,” said Lafond. “It’s important that kids know what is going on outside of their own little worlds.”

During Lafond’s most recent lesson, she spoke about Hanukkah, the menorah and the dreidel game.

“What do you do to celebrate this time of year?” she asked the group of 4- and 5-year-olds.

The children named off the usual list of holiday traditions: Decorating a Christmas tree, stringing lights, opening presents.

But not everyone celebrates Christmas during this time of year, she told them. Some people celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.

“A long time ago, some people told some other people they couldn’t practice their religion,” said Lafond. “And they had a big fight with each other.”

Lafond went on to explain how the Jews drove out their enemies and gained their temple back. She said they prepared to rededicate their temple by relighting the “eternal flame.”

“They had just enough oil to burn for one day, but the oil lasted for eight days,” she explained. “This is why Jewish families light candles or burn oil in a menorah for the eight days of Hanukkah, adding one candle each day,” she said.

According to Lafond, it is important to keep the language at a level the children can understand without overwhelming or frightening them during lessons.

“Rather than talking about a war, I say they were fighting with each other,” she said.

Lafond said she tries to include several aspects of a culture into her lesson rather than focusing on a particular holiday or event. She said it helps children see the bigger picture of a culture rather than associating the culture with one specific time of year or event.

During the 45-minute lesson, Lafond read the story, Building a Menorah, played the dreidel game with the children and helped them each make a menorah out of construction paper.

“I like that they are learning about other cultures and touch on what other people believe,” said Linda Crickett of Pelham. Crickett brings her 5-year-old daughter Shannon to the story group faithfully each week.

On Dec. 14, members of the Pelham High School French Club will read a story in both French and English. Lafond said she hopes they will share a lesson or two on some French culture as well.

“We have a responsibility to let our children know what’s out there,” said Lafond. “There are so many fun ways to do that.”

Storytime runs each Tuesday and Wednesday from 9:30 to 10 a.m. for children 2 and 3, and 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. for children 4 to 7. For more information, contact the Pelham Public Library at 603-635-7581.

Have a story idea? Contact Heidi Smith at hsmith@thevalleydispatch.com.