Across the U.S. and Canada, PJ Library® strengthens Jewish engagement
A newly-released national survey commissioned by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and conducted by Informing Change, an external evaluation form, finds that PJ Library plays an important role in shaping the lives of Jewish families. Like families across the United States and Canada, GTA families who participate in PJ Library say the program has influenced or supported how they talk about and practice Jewish traditions in their home. 95% percent of local families say PJ Library helps them have conversations about Jewish traditions, values and customs with their children.
PJ Library, the flagship program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, delivers more than 170,000 free Jewish children’s books and music CDs throughout the United States and Canada each month, including 5,500, or 60% of Jewish families in the GTA. Books are sent to children ages six months through eight years, with each subscriber receiving a title carefully selected for high-quality content and age-level appropriateness.
“PJ Library is our community’s largest outreach and engagement program, giving young parents tools to set their children on a lifelong Jewish journey,” said Daniel Held, Executive Director of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education at UJA, which partners with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation to ensure children in the GTA receive PJ Library books as a part of the program.
“Working to preserve a strong Jewish community for future generations is at the heart of everything we do at the Foundation and through PJ Library,” said Harold Grinspoon, the founder of PJ Library. “Books are a natural way to invite people into a global community and to pass values and traditions onto the next generation, ensuring our children and their children grow up connected to their Jewish heritage.”
The study also found that PJ Library provides participants the opportunity to connect with other families in their community through events for younger children. In the GTA, 33% percent of PJ Library families surveyed attended events for Jewish families with young children hosted by PJ Library or another organization in the past year. The events, which families say they usually attended a few times a year, included chances to socialize and participate in arts and crafts, cooking or book readings. 56% percent of the parents who went to these events say they connected socially with other adults they met.
“We really loved our PJ+ classes. We had incredible teachers who exuded warmth and kindness and formed bonds with a like-minded group of parents. They made Sunday mornings very special and Jewish themed. Love for Judaism and Israel were totally communicated to our children. We read our PJ books regularly and this class supplemented this very nicely,” said a community parent whose children receive PJ library books and attended a weekly PJ Parent-and-Tot program.
In addition to creating connections between families, the study found that PJ Library is fostering communal ties, with 70% percent of all participating families in the GTA saying the program has made them interested in getting more connected to local Jewish activities, organizations, and/or people.
“We take seriously that each night parents are inviting us to join their family during one of the day’s most treasured moments before bedtime,” said Winnie Sandler Grinspoon, president of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. “We take our cues from parents to make sure we provide books worthy of that special family time. Parents have told us that the PJ Library books their families receive each month not only help them feel more capable of raising Jewish children, but also make them more excited to pass on the traditions and beliefs they cherished in their own childhoods or have come to cherish as adults.”
To ensure parents feel equipped to talk with their children about Jewish values and traditions, PJ Library includes information for parents on the inside flaps of each book, suggests tips and resources for parents on its blog, and gives parents the opportunity to choose their own book each year. 86% percent of GTA families who participate in PJ Library say the program is a valuable parenting tool, and 82% percent say it has helped them think about the kind of Jewish practice they want to have in their home.
Since its founding in western Massachusetts in 2005, PJ Library has rapidly grown to send more than 170,000 free Jewish books per month to more than 125,000 families living in 200 communities across the United States and Canada. Combined, PJ Library and its sister program Sifriyat Pijama in Israel deliver more than 540,000 free books each month to young children in 13 countries.
The 2016 Triennial Family Study, conducted in partnership with external evaluation firm Informing Change, consisted of an online survey and had a 20 percent response rate with 25,270 responses. Forty-five families participated in additional telephone interviews.
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