By Laura Safran
There’s something you can do today, right now, to bring delight to a child you love and share a world of love and light with them.
And it’s free.
PJ Library is the extraordinarily successful partnership between the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey that mails free, high-quality, expertly-selected, age-appropriate Jewish children's literature and music to families across the continent. One book for each child delivered each month for every child between the ages of 6 months to 11 years.
For ages nine to 11, the program becomes PJ Our Way - a more grown-up experience giving tweens the option of going online to select their books, and submit written or video reviews.
When you sign up for PJ Library, a child you love and care for will receive a blue and white wrapped package with their new book every month -- for free!
And that’s when the fun begins. From unwrapping their brand new book to the first time you and your little one sit together and turn each page, something important is happening between you and your child and between your child and the wider world. Together, you are exploring life-changing history, life-affirming tradition and life-expanding values and perspective that have been responsible for many a mensch-made.
Linda Silver, of the Association of Jewish Libraries, shares her insight on the value of reading books in the introduction to her bibliography of children’s books:
“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...becomes ever-more important as a means of transmitting Jewish values to Jewish children.” (Interested in more of Ms. Silver’s perspective and her list? See it here).
No matter how observant (or not) our households are regarding our Jewishness, we all want to give our children the opportunity to personally explore transformative concepts like Tikkun Olam -- repairing the world, and Tzedakah – justice and charitable giving for the vulnerable. PJ Library is a wonderfully sweet, smart way to engage children in these concepts and more.
Titles range from fantastic escapades like The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West, to true-to-life tales such as All Kinds of Strong, a story about Sadie Rose, a young girl who proves that strength is more than just physical ability. Titles are chosen carefully to represent the broad spectrum of Jewish families and many have won prestigious awards such as the Caldecott Medal to the Sydney Taylor Book Award. Several were finalists for the National Jewish Book Award.
And the value of this extraordinary program doesn’t end with the unwrapping or even the reading. Thanks to an ever-growing community of Jewish families who are participating in PJ Library -- more than 1,800 in Middlesex and Monmouth counties alone at last count -- the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey is happy to support many free and low-cost children's events with a Jewish twist that connect children and families to Jewish life in the community. With some organized by volunteers and others taking place at schools and synagogues, these pop-up events are opportunities for children to build friendships with peers as they explore story themes and characters, together.
So what are you waiting for? Join the thousands of other families who are already receiving their free book each month. And when your child receives his or her first book, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about your experience. I’d love to read it!
Sign up for PJ Library today
Interested in the experiences of families who are getting their free books? Read more from Jane and Ian, an interfaith couple who are raising their kids Jewish, and from Sheri Guttman, raising two young girls to joyfully embrace their Jewish heritage in an increasingly secular world.