Diving into a World of Jewish Reading with PJ Library

Everyone has a favorite childhood book. Whether it was the playful illustrations or the imaginative story, most can pinpoint a book they still hold dear, even into adulthood. But what about your favorite Jewish children's book? Nationally funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, and locally supported by Marcia and Ed Kress, PJ Library works with our Jewish Federation to provide Jewish children's books for free to local families who are raising Jewish children. Their aim? To foster Jewish learning while creating a gateway for deeper engagement in Jewish life in children 6 months to 8 years.

Launched in 2005, the PJ Library program was inspired by Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a literacy program that is also funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. PJ Library has been active in the Dayton community since 2006, with over 100 families receiving Jewish books and music every month of the year.

Rochel Simon and her 6 children have been enjoying their PJ Library book subscription since the inception of the program. "PJ Library brings beautiful Jewish books into our home, and the kids just love the excitement of getting their own book. I think it's amazing. Ever since starting with PJ Library, my kids are just obsessed with the mail -- they think they're getting mail every day!"

Event Planner for Bernstein's Catering and local fitness instructor Lauren Baumgarten and her children also love the monthly package from PJ Library. "I think the program is fantastic. Reading to your children is such an important activity and being able to bring in the Jewish aspect is awesome. The fact that it's free to anyone within the Jewish community is an added benefit."

Both moms love the wealth of Jewish learning that comes from the books. "The books really teach how to be a better person, the concept of Tikkun Olam, and how to make the world a better place. It really brings a love of Judaism to our life. You can tell that the books have been handpicked for these reasons, they're not chosen randomly," comments Rochel Simon.

"It's not just the literary benefit," Lauren comments, "it's also the Jewishness that comes along with it. It's not exactly easy to find a kids book with a Jewish theme or Jewish lesson. Being able to help our children grow and learn at age-appropriate levels, as well as incorporating Jewish life and Jewish lessons -- is huge for me."

For those wanting to encourage or supplement the learning of Hebrew, PJ Library also offers the option to receive the books in Hebrew. "I order them in Hebrew because Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz mentioned it," says Lauren, "and I thought 'this is great. Not only are we getting Jewish books, but we're also getting them in Hebrew -- which is very nice. I like to incorporate Hebrew as much as possible around the house. I used to be fluent, but it's been 15 years, so it's been great to refresh my memory while teaching my children at the same time."

If you're a family in the Dayton area looking to take part in the fantastic program that is PJ Library, don't miss out! Contact Caryl Segalewitz for more information on how to get your kids involved at csegalewitz@jfgd.net or 937-401-1558.

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