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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The PJ Library - Providing Books to Families

The PJ Library is unique program that provides quality books and music to Jewish families with young children. The PJ Library is an inspiring example of the impact of meaningful outreach. I had the opportunity to learn more about the program from Marcie Greenfield Simons, Director of The PJ Library.

Tell me about the history of the PJ Library
The PJ Library is the brainchild of philanthropist and social entrepreneur Harold Grinspoon, who founded The Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Harold found his inspiration for The PJ Library in country singer Dolly Parton. He said, "About five years ago I brought Dolly's Imagination Library - which distributes books to inner-city children - to Western Massachusetts. Then it occurred to me --this is the ideal project to adapt to the Jewish community. We need to get Yiddishkeit into the homes of unengaged Jewish families in a positive way."

Grinspoon knew that reading stories and listening to music are among the most powerful childhood learning experiences. Parents and children have warm memories of that special time right before bed where snuggled together, they end the day with a book. In Winter 2005, he decided to turn these special moments into "Jewish moments". He named the library "PJ" -- short for "pajamas" -- with the notion that books and music add to the magic of bedtime.

In December, 2005, Grinspoon launched The PJ Library in his home community in Western MA. Now in over 70 communities in America, that number looks like it could reach well over 100 by next year. Plans are also underway for international growth.

How can a community become involved?
A funding partner is required to bring The PJ Library to families in any new region, city or town. To become a partner, a local philanthropist, foundation, Federation, or other Jewish organization must finance the cost of the books, music and the mailing for children in the designated community. The cost is $60 per child per year. This amount covers the cost of 12 mailings to families, who receive The PJ Library for FREE for the first one or two years in the PJ Partner’s community. Each year thereafter, we recommend asking for a minimal donation of $18 per child from families. This donation brings the base cost of sponsorship to $42 per child per year each year thereafter. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation covers all overhead and administrative costs for the program, and coordinates the monthly distribution of books and music.

Partners in The PJ Library program receive various educational resources and information from The Harold Grinspoon Foundation for help with implementing the program, recruiting families to participate, and planning complementary educational programs. This is all done in an effort to enhance the experience of participants in The PJ Library. In each community, the program is advertised as a gift of the local sponsor, under The PJ Library program partner’s name.

Individuals and organizations interested in become partner-funders, please contact

Currently you focus on books for kids ages 1-6. Do you have any plans to provide books for older kids?
Just this year it was expanded from age 6 to age 7 - and the current plan is to include 8 year olds beginning in December.

Do you welcome book contributions from individuals?
Book authors are welcome to submit their books for consideration. You can write to: Natalie Blitt, head of the Book Selection Committee, at

What are some of the long-term goals for PJ library?
To have The PJ Library active and thriving in every Jewish community in North America.
To reach and involve more and more intermarried families, as well as "unaffiliated" and "un-engaged" Jewish families. Although the program was originally conceptualized to reach out to these kinds of families, the program is open to ALL Jewish families on a first-come, first-served basis, regardless of level of Jewish involvement. Each city or town is funded for a certain number of children's subscription-slots, and once it reaches capacity, there is a waiting list.

Marcie, thank you for all you do for the PJ Library. To learn more about the PJ Library, please visit the web site at