Duplicate books? Curious how we choose the titles? Your questions answered by the Chair of the PJ Library UK Book Selection Committee

Father and Daughter Reading Together

PJ Library is treasured for its unique role in sparking Jewish conversations in the home and for bringing a Jewish element into precious book-at-bedtime bonding time, but it’s even more than that. PJ Library makes Jewish kids in the UK part of something bigger: a three-year-old living in the Scottish Highlands receives the same books as one in north-west London, building Jewish connections nationwide. Indeed, PJ Library books are now enjoyed by families raising Jewish children in over 30 countries. And, like the TV programme that every child is watching, a PJ Library collection will become a cherished cultural reference point for a generation that, many years from now, can be passed down with love to their own children – l’dor v’dor!

How do you choose the books?

Here in the UK we have our own book selection committee, which I chair, made up of experts in education and children’s literature. We are in the fortunate position of being able to choose from two books for each age group every month rather than simply taking what we’re given.

Who chooses the books?

PJ Library HQ in the USA are sent over 70 manuscripts each month. They identify the top nine titles for the programme in America. In the UK we have a Content Advisory Committee who then review those nine titles and choose four that are most appropriate for the UK community. The Committee is made up of a range of diverse educational and literary experts. We have a Jewish studies teacher, a nursery headteacher and an award-winning writer and editor. There are representatives from different denominations of Judaism, different parts of the UK, and also comprise a mixture of parents and grandparents.

This book isn’t for us/ we have too many!

One size can never fit all, and some families will find that not every book chimes with their family’s particular Jewish heritage or level of religious observance. If this is the case for your family, or you’re simply running out of space to store your growing collection, why not give the books you don’t need to a friend, relative, nursery or synagogue, who are bound to appreciate your gift?

Why have we received the same book twice?

You may receive the same book each month because your children have an age gap that is less than two years and are, therefore, in the same age bracket. We have four age categories (0-2 yrs, 3-4 yrs, 5-6 yrs and 7-8 yrs). You are welcome to move one child up or down an age category to ensure you receive two different books each month.

When PJ Library first started in the US fifteen years ago, there simply weren’t enough Jewish books being published in relation to the number of subscribers, so duplicates had to be sent out every couple of years. Over the past few years the US-based book selection committee has been striving to encourage authors and publishers to produce new Jewish books, so now a book will not be sent again for at least four years, and that gap will increase as more new books continue to be produced.

If a family has a four-year age gap between their children, they may occasionally receive a repeat book. While this may seem less than ideal, we hope that the younger child will appreciate having a brand-new copy of their own – a book that isn’t dog-eared and hasn’t been drawn on, and that they won’t have to fight their older sibling for when they’re saving their favourite childhood books for posterity. But if a family does want to avoid receiving duplicates, you can always move one child into another age bracket by emailing info@pjlibrary.org.uk.

Madelyn Travis

Madelyn Travis
Chair of the UK Content Advisory Committee