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Israel Society & Culture: Children’s Literature

Children’s literature, which includes original texts as well as translations of classics from many languages, integrates a wide variety of topics and prose styles, reflecting a world trend towards a more direct and sophisticated approach to language and intellectual content in writing for children.

During the first decade of the state, most Hebrew books for children focused on the prevailing social values of pioneering, struggle and achievement, emphasizing the individual's obligation to the building of the country. They were full of slogans and admiration of heroes, with the national vision occupying a central place. More often than not, authors tended to used the pronoun 'we' rather than 'I'.

Since the late 1960s, transmission of adult values in children's literature was gradually replaced with the world of the children themselves, dealing with topics such as death, divorce, single-parent families, handicaps, adolescence and the struggle for one's place in the family and society. At the same time, many imaginative children's books and stories were also written, providing young readers with pure fantasy, entertainment and escapism.

Motivating open inquiry and encouraging independent thinking have become basic elements in contemporary writing for children. While themes of social and national significance are still important, they are now treated with greater sincerity and openness. Some current books aim at negating stereotypes in the country's diversified society and deal with the immigration of Jews from many parts of the world, while others feature historical works and biographies which focus primarily on prominent figures who contributed to the development of the country over the last century, beginning with the renewal of Jewish life in the Land of Israel. Over the years a considerable body of children's literature for various age groups has been produced. It is distinguished by well-designed graphics and characterized by psychological sensitivity as well as by an expressive and picturesque use of language, enabling the young reader to identify with the substance of the writing in a dynamic way. Many Israeli books for children are now also being published in translation around the world, in a wide variety of languages.

Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry