Once a month we get a very special bit of book post. It comes in a big white envelope with the blue logo of PJ Library in the top corner and is always met with excitement from my boys. Inside the envelope we know there will be a brand new book to add to our growing library of books about Judaism and Jewish families.
PJ Library is an organisation which sends books out every month to children aged between 6 months and 8 years about Judaism. Funded by Jewish organisations and benefactors, these books are a gift to encourage parents and children to read together and engage with Jewish life and culture.
If you haven’t heard about PJ Library before or if you have and you’re thinking about signing up then let us tell you how worthwhile and brilliant they are with our…
5 reasons we love PJ Library:
1. High quality books
The books we receive are high quality and brilliantly produced. They are well written, beautifully illustrated and in some cases, award winners. These are highly appealing picture books, they look good, they feel good and are always a good read.
2. Stories that centre around Jewish children and their families
What I find really wonderful about the books is their purpose is not solely to inform and educate. When you are part of a cultural minority, the books that are usually available in the mainstream serve to explain your culture to others. Whereas the books from PJ Library have characters that are living our religion, our culture and stories that are built around them.
The books go beyond the major festivals, delving into the cultural rituals, the values and beliefs that are at the core of Jewish life.
3. Inclusion of Hebrew and Yiddish
Many of the books have Hebrew and/or Yiddish words somewhere within them, sometimes using Hebrew characters as part of the illustration. Hebrew is the language we use in prayer and finding opportunities for my children to engage with it is really important. Yet the use of this is always subtle so as not to be a barrier for any readers who are unfamiliar with it.
4. Bringing Jewish writing and publishing into the mainstream.
Before I found PJ Library I didn’t know where to look for Jewish children’s books, especially in the UK. I would maybe find some on American websites but they could be tricky to source and you’d never knew if the books would be any good. Now our eyes have been opened to a world of books we couldn’t access previously; we know which publishers to look for, we recognise the authors and illustrators. There is even a full list of the books that PJ Library provide on their website. As PJ Library has grown in the UK I’ve noticed the increase in availability of some of the books on British websites and have even seen the odd PJ Library book sitting on the shelves in non-Jewish school libraries or bookshelves which is truly amazing. The books are cleverly selected so they are accessible to all children and would be perfect additions to any school library looking to recognise and celebrate diversity.
5. They excite us about our culture.
These books provide us with the springboard for so many activities and discussions about being Jewish. The books we’ve received have inspired craft activites; making groggers for Purim, new year cards at Rosh Hashanah and a toy latke cooking station at Chanukah. So many of the books feature traditional foods and we have baked hamantaschen at Purim, eaten matzah brei at Pesach and fried cheese blintzes for Shavuot.
These books are a truly wonderful gift and a fantastic example of how diversity can be promoted and celebrated through children’s literature. And for me, being able to read books to my children that they can see themselves in and relate to is the biggest gift of all.Follow @Acornbooks