PJ Library Helps Jewish Families Teach Kids About Culture, Values

5/11/2010

By Jennifer Garza | The Sacramento Bee

AS THE DAUGHTER of a Holocaust survivor, Denise Crevin of Elk Grove grew up informed about her Jewish heritage. Now she wants to teach her kids about their roots and has turned to a special book program for help.

Last year, Crevin's family enrolled in the PJ Library. Now Ava, 4, and Max, 20 months, are among the hundreds of children in the region - thousands nationally - learning about Jewish faith and traditions from free books they receive every month in the mail.

"The books have done a great job in building my daughter's Jewish identity," said Crevin. One of Ava's favorites is "The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah" by Leslie Kimmelman, a story about a hen who complains that her friends didn't help her make the matzah but who later forgives them.

Crevin said her daughter runs to the mail when she sees the familiar blue and white envelope. "She wants to read them right away," she said.

The PJ Library, Jewish Bedtime Stories and Songs for Families, started in Massachusetts in 2005 and arrived in Sacramento last year. The program is supported by private donations and the Jewish Federation of Sacramento.

The books are selected by a committee of rabbis, parents, authors and educators, said Ardyth Sokoler, the PJ Library program coordinator in Sacramento. Books are available on a monthly basis to families with children ranging from 6 months to 7 1/2 years old.

"The books are age- appropriate and they cover such topics as religious holidays and values and Israel," she said. Organizers have worked with local synagogues to spread the word about the program. They also realize that many families, like the Crevins, do not belong to a temple.

"The program is for anyone who considers themself Jewish," said Sokoler.

In addition to the books, the program recently began holding group activities where families can meet other families in the program. Last month, the PJ Library celebrated its one-year anniversary with an event at the Sacramento Zoo.

"Our goal is to promote literacy and to help families connect to the Jewish community," Sokoler said.

For more information about the PJ Library, call (916) 486-0906 or email SacramentoPJLibrary@live.com.