PJ Library wants families to snuggle together with books


Do you know what I miss most about my early childhood? Footsie pajamas. Even to this day, I envy toddlers who go to the grocery store in their cozy, flame-resistant sleepers with rubberized grippers. I also have fond memories of snuggling under the blankets before bedtime and having my dad read to me the same Curious George book over and over again. To me, comfy pajamas and imaginative stories went together like, well, peanut butter and jelly, or latkes and dreidels.

Sadly, many of today’s young families would rather watch television than read together, especially anything with a Jewish theme. With our fast-paced, high-tech lifestyles, we forget about the innocent, story time traditions of our own youth, and consequently we deprive our children and ourselves of something very special.

Research indicates that Jewish experiences in the first five years of life establish the basis of a child’s Jewish sense of self. With that in mind, the wildly innovative and popular reading incentive program called the PJ Library offers an easy and fun way for curious tots to get hooked on books, while their families bond together and learn more about their Jewish heritage, traditions, and holidays. The “PJ” stands for pajamas, by the way, and the “Library” represents a personal collection of Jewish books and music CDs that are delivered right to the participant’s mailbox every month.

The non-profit national year-round Jewish children’s book gifting program is geared towards the next generation of readers and currently is available to families with children ages six months to six years. However, the PJ Library hopes to expand the age group next year to include older children. After all, many of the selections, such as Phoebe Gilman’s beautifully illustrated Something from Nothing, is a timeless folktale that appeals to all ages, even grownups. The PJ Library book selection committee, which is made up of children’s literature experts, compiles the lists of high-quality, age-appropriate books and music CDs. Plus, parents receive a useful guide to help them make the most out of their books and songs and sharing time with their family.

Since its inception in December 2005, the PJ Library has distributed more than 60,000 books per year to children. Operating in 50-plus Jewish communities across the United States, the program is rapidly expanding and is projected to double by the end of 2008. In fact, more than 700 children in St. Louis take advantage of the PJ Library. A subscription to the PJ Library is free for the first year and $18 for every year after. (That’s cheaper than a Dora the Explorer computer game that eventually ends up in a garage sale). The PJ Library is funded by a gift from long-time community leaders, Leslie and Michael Litwack, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library.

With Hanukah around the corner, books make great gifts, and the gift of time with your children or grandchildren is priceless. To get everyone in the mood for the upcoming holiday, the PJ Library invites all children through age nine to a fun-filled family Hanukkah party on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m., at the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library. The event features storytelling, puppets, crafts, and treats. Parents and grandparents are welcome, and so are footsie pajamas.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is obsessing over the menu for her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah, so please feel free to send any advice to: [email protected] or visit her website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.