PJ Library and Early Childhood Engagement
by Louise Van Schaack
“Who is Elijah?” five-year-old Hannah asked me when she arrived at pre-school a few weeks ago.
She’d recently received a copy of The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman from the PJ Library, and the book had piqued her interest. She wanted to know more.
I was surprised and delighted by Hannah’s inquiry. We talked about when Elijah visits and discussed the song we sing about Elijah during Havdalah.
I then realized this conversation and her curiosity would not have happened had it not been for the PJ Library, which provides a wide array of well organized, stimulating resources (including exceptional books, music and web content) that engage early childhood families in Jewish life. I was delighted with the variety of Passover activities available for us to offer families in our congregation, from baking your own matzah to Passover songs to matzah ball trade secrets.
Other PJ Library resources we’ve used include Shabbat Story Time, in which families come to Temple Emanuel for stories, snacks and crafts (great craft ideas are provided on the website). These resources make creating engaging events for young families both simple and effective.
The week after Hannah and I talked about Elijah, our congregation hosted PJ Library artist Sheldon Low. During Havdalah, as we sang Eliyahu Hanavi, I happened to glance over and see Hannah’s face light up as she made the connection to our earlier conversation.
The music of Sheldon Low and Rick Recht are other tools on the PJ Library site that create wonderful Jewish connections for kids. Singing their lyrics, our pre-school children learn Hebrew words such as hageshem (rain) and mishpacha (family). The children refer to these musicians by name and request their songs at home, at school, and in the car.
The PJ Library has 176 active communities throughout North America. Children ages six months through five, six, seven, or eight (depending on the community) are eligible to participate. I encourage you to visit the website, which will enable you to create wonderful opportunities for meaningful early childhood engagement in your community.