Reading stories and listening to music are among the most powerful and nurturing early childhood learning experiences. Books and songs are also great ways to start a conversation, and can offer parents a means of instilling deep, passionate Jewish feelings in their children.
Which is where The PJ Library fits in. With the tagline “Jewish Bedtime Stories and Songs for Families, the virtual library was created by the Springfield, MA-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation in communities around the country. The Fairfield affiliate is also supported by the UJA/Federation of Eastern Fairfield County through a donation from Fairfield residents Edie and David Chaifetz. It provides a monthly gift in the mail of a Jewish book or CD to children ages 6 months-7 years, at no cost for the first two years. The books and CDs that are part of The PJ Library have been chosen by children’s literature and music experts based on their ability to communicate Jewish stories, heritage and values. Along with the gift books and music, families receive parenting books and reading guides to enhance The PJ Library experience.
While 5-year-old Spencer Littman loves reading Sammy Spider’s First Trip to Israel, his mother, Tara Cook-Littman, of Fairfield, loves how this book and others they have received trigger questions about Israel and being Jewish. “The stories we read from The PJ Library collection bring alive different aspects of Jewish life and culture,” she says. “It is a great way to get my kids interested in our heritage and excited about upcoming Jewish holidays and celebrations. The stories help Spencer and my two daughters, 3-year-old Ava and 18-month-old Grace, better understand our Jewish traditions by explaining them on their level.“
And they love singing and dancing to the music they’ve gotten. “My kids love the “Oy Baby” CD and we play it all the time!” Cook-Littman says.
Since the launch of The PJ Library program in the fall of 2007, there are close to 300 children from Fairfield, Bridgeport, Trumbull, Easton, Stratford, Shelton, Newtown, Monroe and Redding whose families have enrolled. Other selections include Bubbe Isabella and The Sukkot Cake, Snow In Jerusalem, and The Castle on Hester Street, which can inspire conversations about tradition, Israel, immigration and stories about parents’ and grandparents’ Jewish experiences.
“It is really neat to watch the excitement on my boys' faces when I put the mail on the kitchen table and say, ‘Guess what, guys, The PJ Library is here again! Who is going to help open the envelope this time?’” says Danielle Weisblatt of Fairfield. “As soon as the envelope is ripped open, they insist I read or play what's inside. The stories, illustrations, and inserts giving general explanations of holidays and traditions are great. What a wonderful way for Judaism to automatically arrive at our front door.“
For more information or to register your child for The PJ Library, visit www.pjlibrary.org. You can also contact Vivian Rockmacher at 203-372-6567 ext. 127 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.