If the success of PJ Library was measured in numbers alone, it would be sufficient, dayenu! More than 150 thousand children in North America receive a book each month from PJ Library, if they are between the ages of six months and eight years old! More than 500 thousand children worldwide receive books from PJ Library in five different languages, if they are between the ages of six months and eight years old. In our particular valleys served by our Jewish Federation, over 500 families receive books each month if they have children between the ages of six months and eight years old! Most organizations and their founders would be happy with these results and say dayenu! But such is not the case with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.
It was the limit of age range that created that still small voice of discontent. Why stop at age eight? What happens to PJ Library kids as they “age-out” of the program? Why not serve the tween population as well? This idea was echoed by community partners, funders and families who asked, “What’s next?” They realized that if they wanted to create the what’s next for older kids, and have it be a true platform, they would need to do more than just send books. Once again PJ Library is not just about the books. It was Winnie Sandler Grinspoon, President of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation who coined the name for the new offering—PJ Our Way—and dubbed it “…a program that would put older kids in the driver’s seat.”
Once they complete the online sign-up process on a secure page with the help of their parents, kids from the age of 8 ½ through 11 can choose their own book from four recommendations, write reviews, submit blog posts, apply for the national Design Team, and become part of a community of their peers on a local level. PJ Our Way participants can create their own profiles and web content, and they can join a leadership group in our community where they design and develop local programming. PJ Our Way…gives tweens the vocabulary to be able to partake in the larger Jewish conversation independently from their parents…and we do that with Jewish books…”
PJ Our Way has quickly grown to more than 14, 000 participants since its inception two years ago. And now, we are proud to say, our community has been selected to offer our tweens this new way to connect. We are creating our own PJ Our Way Book Club to serve the tweens in our area and we hope to highlight this group in future articles. Dayenu is obviously not in the vocabulary of the PJ Library family, and those of us who are fortunate enough to be part of this extended family, are the beneficiaries.
Debby Singer is the PJ Library Program Coordinator and a contributing writer to Kiddish Magazine.