In December 2016/January 2017, UK families were invited to take part in an external review, facilitated by PJ Library’s evaluation partner, Informing Change. Over 650 families completed the survey, which was a 33% response rate. The results can be found here.
There were hundreds of comments, many filled with helpful suggestions on how to improve the programme. We identified five recurring themes and have responded to them below. Please contact the team if you have any additional comments or ideas firstname.lastname@example.org
Not all the books relate to my family (Ashkenazi/Sephardi, Religious/Secular)
PJ Library is a cross-communal programme that is committed to offering a diverse range of books. The book selection committee appreciates that while a higher number of Ashkenazi books are produced by publishers, PJ Library is eager to include more Sephardi stories. We are focused on working with a more varied group of authors, encouraging them to tell the stories of their families. Sephardi books such as The Shabbat Lion, Never Say A Mean Word, Yuvi’s Candy Tree and others have been distributed in the UK programme and more are planned for the future.
In addition, if families do find a book is not appropriate for them they have two options. Either they can donate it to a local synagogue, Dr’s surgery or nursery; or parents can use the books as a springboard to talk about the diversity, and often strength, of the Jewish people.
Some books feel very American
PJ Library originated in North America, founded by the philanthropist Harold Grinspoon. To keep printing costs down and to benefit from economies of scale, each month the UK book selection committee choose four titles (one title for each of the four age groups) from eight titles offered by the American book selection committee. While some changes can be applied to books regarding spelling or language use, certain titles or wording cannot be altered. Huge efforts are made to ensure the UK titles are as appropriate as possible for families in the UK.
Do you have suggestions for older children who graduate from PJ Library?
Although PJ Library is for children aged between six months and eight years old, when children graduate PJ aged nine, they may be left with a ‘Jewish book void’ to fill. In America, there is a programme called PJ Our Way. While, it has not arrived in the UK, the programme lists a number of books that can be bought from various UK publishing stores or websites.
Do you offer books in Hebrew?
PJ Library is a UK programme about strengthening Jewish identity. A number of our books include Hebrew in them such as The Language of Angels, Goodnight Leila Tov and Happy, Happy, but the books are written in English. Our sister programme, Sifriyat Pijama, does not distribute books outside of Israel.
Can PJ Library offer crafts or activities that reflect the books?
Every family who subscribes to PJ Library should also receive a monthly newsletter with recipes, craft suggestions, parenting articles and ideas. Around half of all subscribers read it each month so if you don’t get one and feel you may be missing out, email email@example.com In addition, there is an active Facebook Page that you can follow here, and a blog with regular news updates and book reviews.
In addition, the UK team partners with over 100 communal organisations including synagogues, mother & baby groups, and charities. They organise family events using PJ Library stories and programming suggestions so children can see their favourite PJ Library books brought to life through performances and crafts. Contact your local communal organisation to find out if they work with PJ (and if they don’t, feel free to pass on our details!). Alternatively, if you live in a small or more remote community, and would like to organise an event for a few local families, we would be happy to supply extra books and programme resources. For example, one family in Devon visited a garden centre for Tu b’Shvat and then they all sat and read a PJ story about that festival together.
July 31, 2017