For 10 years, PJ Library has sent free Jewish books to children up to age 8 across the country every month. Now, PJ Our Way is being launched for those ages 9 to 11.
The older students’ initiative was launched in 10 communities nationwide in 2014. Another 24 communities were just added to the pilot program, including New Orleans, administered by Jewish Children’s Regional Service.
In the Southern Jewish Life coverage area, only those in the New Orleans area are currently eligible for PJ Our Way, with one exception. PJ Our Way also has a few summer camps under the pilot project, so those attending Ramah Darom or the Henry S. Jacobs Camp and participate in the program there will be eligible year-round, even if they do not live in a pilot community.
It is expected that the program will be rolled out nationally before long.
Participants in PJ Our Way will go online at the beginning of each month to select one of four titles that have been reviewed by a panel of educators, parents and students. Each title will have a synopsis, author biography, ratings, reviews and video trailers created by other PJ Our Way members.
“We’ve thought a great deal about how to engage older readers by giving them more say in what they read and then giving them creative platforms to talk to their peers about the books,” said PJ Our Way Director Catriella Freedman.
Members can also take on-line polls and quizzes, post their own reviews and videos, participate in monthly interviews and challenges, and comment on blog posts. In this way, they are able to interact with their same-aged peers throughout North America who have read the same Jewish-themed books.
There is also a Parents Blog, where parents are invited to read about each book and find suggestions for family conversations.
“We believe these stories and their values help shape young people in their understanding of being Jewish, and it’s our hope that PJ Our Way will ultimately build a strong community of young Jewish people,” said Harold Grinspoon, Founder of PJ Library and PJ Our Way.
As part of the New Orleans implementation, JCRS plans social programming for members, including book clubs, themed social gatherings and holiday-specific functions.
To sign up for PJ Our Way, click here.