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Noah’s Swim-a-Thon

Children's Book Review and Discussion Guide

Title: Noah’s Swim-a-Thon
Author: Ann D. Koffsky
Illustrator: Ann D. Koffsky
Publisher: URJ Press
Intended for Ages: 5-6 years
Jewish Customs: tzedakah (justice/charity); k'hilah k'doshah (holy community; hidur mitzvot (completing good deeds)
Additional Topics Mentioned: n'divut (generosity); malacha (industrious/hard-working); tikkun olam (repairing the world)

Synopsis

Noah loves everything about summer camp  except swimming. Yet, when he finds out about a camp swim-a-thon that will give other children a chance to attend the camp he loves, Noah leaps at the chance to jump in the water and do his part to help. By participating in his camp's tzedakah project, Noah overcomes his anxiety about the pool and instead focuses on the positive feelings that come with fulfilling a mitzvah! 

Highlights

  • Children can learn about what it feels like to help someone in need. When Noah considers entering the swim-a-thon, he is not enticed about the possibility of winning a material prize. Instead, he becomes excited about the idea of helping others become a part of his camp community. In the book, this idea is presented by the camp's director as a prize that the campers would be "giving" to others. Helping someone in need is what propels Noah to generate a list of sponsors and participate in the swim-a-thon. 
  • Children can learn about overcoming their fears. At the beginning of this book, Noah is genuinely scared of being in the swimming pool. After agreeing to participate in the camp's swim-a-thon, he begins to take small steps toward putting his face in the water, blowing bubbles and eventually completes his first lap! With each passing day, Noah's confidence increases and by the end of the book, the reader can sense how proud he is of taking on his fear of the water! Reflecting on the difficulties that children can experience when attempting to take on a daunting task, this story provides one avenue that may help ease the idea of taking on a challenging activity. 
  • The book explores what it feels like to be part of a holy community. Noah loves summer camp, and when the director engages their camp community to help others, Noah feels compelled to do his part. Each time Noah begins to feel anxious about being in the pool, he thinks about the kids he is trying to help and this acts as a motivator, further encouraging him to complete his goal. The idea that he is completing his task as part of a greater communal goal helps to touch upon the idea of what we can accomplish when we work together. 

Jewish Topics for Family Discussion

  • The importance of the value of tzedakah in Jewish tradition: In this story, the mitzvah of giving to others is explored when Noah agrees to participate in his camp's tzedakah project – the swim-a-thon. The Jewish tradition of giving tzedakah is a great conversation topic, and one that can be explored via a number of PJ Library® titles including Bagels from Benny by Aubrey Davis and How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box by Linda Heller. Try incorporating a family tradition of collecting tzedakah weekly at your Shabbat dinner table and as a family decide where the money should go each month. You can create your own tzedakah box! You may also consider creating a family mitzvah project of your own such as contacting a local soup kitchen and creating a dish together to be served or starting a toy or book drive to make a difference for others less fortunate in your community. 
  • Being a Part of a Holy Community: A Holy community (or k'hilah k'doshah) is one where its members take care of one another in a special or sacred way. There is a unique feeling of communal responsibility that comes with being part of this type of community. In the book, this comes across when Noah and the other campers collect tzedekah to enable other children in their community to attend camp. You might consider taking your children on a scavenger hunt to meet the people in your school, building or neighborhood. At each stop, ask your children about what they might be able to do in order to help the next person on your list. Team up with another family and think about ways you can help meet their needs! Singer/Songwriter Dan Nichols has a wonderful song called "k'hilah k'doshah," which is fun to listen to and follows this theme.

Noah’s Swim-a-Thon was mailed to 5-6 year-old children in June 2012 as part of their PJ Library® subscription. PJ Library® provides the gift of free Jewish books and music to families raising Jewish children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years. To find out if subscriptions are available in your area, please visit the PJ Library®-URJ-WRJ Partnership page