Israel’s government adopts PJ LIbrary

by Jacob Berkman

The government of Israel and a North American foundation are partnering on a literacy program for Israeli pre-schoolers.

Israel’s government will invest $500,000 to bring to Israel the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library, which in the U.S. gives to more than 100,000 Jewish children free books with Jewish content.

The program has existed in Israel on a small scale, but the government’s boost will help the give free books each month to some 40,000 underserved children.

Sifriyat Pijama, as it is known in Hebrew, will distribute books through Israel’s schools. The books will go to children whose families have reduced or restricted financial means.

“It is exciting for us to see that the Israeli Ministry of Education finds the Sifriyat Pijama program worthy of such a large investment,” says Joanna S. Ballantine, executive director of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

Here is the press release:

Israel Launches Major Literacy Drive for Preschoolers

Based on North America’s The PJ Library, Israeli Literacy Program for Underserved Children Expands Fifteen Fold

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The Israeli Ministry of Education is investing $500,000 in a program, adapted from the United States, that will provide 44,000 underserved Israeli children, ages three to five, with free books every month during the school year.

The program is based on The PJ Library®, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that provides free books and CDs with Jewish content to children throughout the United States and Canada.  The foundation has adapted the program for Israeli children, using appropriate books in Hebrew. Together, the two programs will now serve more than 100,000 children and their families across North America and Israel.

The Israeli version of the program, known as “Sifriyat Pijama (Pajama Library in Hebrew), began distributing books to 3,000 Israeli children through preschools last year. In the 2010-2011 academic year, the Israeli Ministry will invest heavily in books for the program with matching funding coming from the Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation and other donors.

As a result, Sifriyat Pijama is set to grow nearly 15 fold. There are approximately 160,000 to 180,000 Hebrew-speaking Israeli children in state schools. The program’s expansion will enable about 25 percent of this target audience to receive the books, according to Galina Vromen, Sifriyat Pijama director.

“Sifriyat Pijama is aligned with the Israeli government’s priorities of promoting early education literacy and teaching Jewish values that transcend religion,” Vromen says. “The books teach children about giving to others, the importance of seeking peace and showing gratitude. These are universal values.” In addition to giving the books to children, Sifriyat Pijama provides guides to parents that explain Judaism’s take on these values and offers activities and discussion topics for parents and teachers.

Another reason for the Israeli Ministry of Education’s investment in the books is its focus on programs that highlight 100 years since Hebrew was revitalized from a previously biblical language to a modern living language. “Sifriyat Pijama fit perfectly into the mix,” Vromen says.

The PJ Library was founded in 2005 in the model of Imagination Library, a program developed by Dolly Parton to increase literacy among financially disadvantaged youth. In North America, The PJ Library partners with Federations and Jewish Community Centers to primarily provide books to the homes of Jewish children without consideration of financial need. The idea of The PJ Library is to engage children and their families in the Jewish culture and traditions by providing books and CDs as gifts sent directly to their homes.

Sifriyat Pijama is different in that the books are being distributed through the schools and will go to children whose families have reduced or restricted financial means. The program in Israel combines the goals of The PJ Library and The Imagination Library.

“It is exciting for us to see that the Israeli Ministry of Education finds the Sifriyat Pijama program worthy of such a large investment,” says Joanna S. Ballantine, executive director of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

For more information about The PJ Library, visit http://www.pjlibrary.org.

From The JTA

The original article may be found here.

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