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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


October 7, 2011  RSS feed

Text: T T T

3 Pinellas preschools join pilot Jewish book program

Iris Koller, project director for PJ Goes to School, explains how the program works to Pinellas County preschool directors and teachers at a recent training session. Iris Koller, project director for PJ Goes to School, explains how the program works to Pinellas County preschool directors and teachers at a recent training session. PJ Library, which offers high-quality Jewishthemed books to thousands of children in their homes across the country, is expanding a supplemental pilot project, “PJ Goes to School,” into Pinellas County preschools.

A school-based initiative that provides professional development and resources to educators in Jewish Early Childhood Education settings, PJ Goes to School is being offered at Congregation B’nai Israel’s preschool in St. Petersburg and the preschools at Temple B’nai Israel and Congregation Beth Shalom, both in Clearwater.

In 2012, PJ Goes to School will expand to Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg and Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor, said Randi Friedman, outreach director of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties.

During its initial year in 2010, PJ Goes to School was offered in classrooms for 3- and 4-year-olds in seven communities across the country, with West Palm Beach being the only place in Florida to carry the program. That year it reached 39 schools and 144 classrooms. This year it will be offered in 59 schools, reaching children in 240 classrooms.

The program is inspired by Israel’s PJ Library program, Sifriyat Pijama. Since Israeli mailboxes are small for security reasons, Sifriyat Pijama books cannot be mailed to participants’ homes. Instead, the books, along with information on how to use the books as teaching tools, are disseminated in schools.

“PJ Goes to School supports the mission of the PJ Library,” said Iris Koller, the program’s national coordinator, who visited Pinellas County in September to teach the participating directors and teachers about the program.

“PJ Goes to School is another way to reach families by having books in the classroom that children also read and enjoy at home with their parents. The program enables teachers to foster community connections and build a vital bridge to learning about Jewish life between school and home, thus supporting families’ Jewish journeys,” she said.

At two workshops, led by Koller, participants “talked about how to use the books for classroom learning, how to go beyond the books to keep the Jewish values that were learned in the classroom book lessons within the classroom every day and what is expected of the participating staff,” said Freidman.

The program “supports our goal to intertwine Jewish values into everyday life and we are very excited to kick off the second pilot year of the PJ Goes to School program here,” said Becky Shield, preschool director from Congregation Beth Shalom.

“PJ Goes to School is a wonderful program that incorporates what some students are reading at home to what we read at school. For children who do not receive PJ Library books at home, we are careful to bring many global ideas of values into discussions,” said Bonnie Halprin, preschool director at Congregation B’nai Israel. “The books spark great topics like friendship and helping someone in need. Children are like a blank canvas and after a lesson they are a masterpiece of artwork.”

PJ Library sends more than 78,000 Jewish children’s books each month to families throughout North America. The program partners with local Jewish organizations, including federations, synagogues, and Jewish community centers, to bring the books into homes.

PJ Goes to School rounds out that mission by reaching children in their Jewish school settings. About 600 copies of the books go out monthly through PJ Goes to School program.

In addition, PJ Goes to School offers professional development to the teachers and teacher resource guides, and detailed suggestions for family engagement and learning activities.

“As the program grows it may include more age groups,” Friedman said. “We are working to give a lot of feedback on the program and how to incorporate Jewish values in the classroom.” She said Koller will return to Pinellas two more times during the school year and directors meet every other month to discuss how the program is working.

The free PJ Library and PJ Goes to School programs are offered through the Harold Grinspoon Foundation in Massachusetts, which also partially funds the Israeli version of the program.

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