U.S. Library of Congress Honors Literacy Programs in Israel

Sept. 17, 2020 – The Library of Congress has announced that Keren Grinspoon Israel (KGI, the Grinspoon Israel Foundation) has been selected as a 2020 Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program Best Practice Honoree. 

KGI and its programs — Sifriyat Pijama (Hebrew for “Pajama Library”) and Maktabat al-Fanoos (Arabic for “Lantern Library”) — are the first in Israel to receive an honor from the Library of Congress, which each year recognizes 15 organizations for innovation in promoting literacy worldwide.

Adapted from the popular PJ Library® book-gifting program created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, Keren Grinspoon Israel distributes some 3.5 million books in Hebrew and Arabic each year to more than 500,000 Israeli children, operating through public preschools and elementary schools in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education. Israeli children are introduced to a book at school, and each one receives a copy to take home and keep. By the time a child enters third grade, s/he will have a home library of at least 32 books as a result of KGI’s efforts.

KGI was granted the honor on the basis of a recommendation from Professor David K. Dickinson, EdD, Margaret Cowan Chair of Vanderbilt University's Department of Teaching and Learning. He noted that Sifriyat Pijama and Maktabat al-Fanoos “provide exactly the type of supports known to nourish early development” (i.e., high-quality books and associated activities that help foster positive ties between the classroom and the home). The programs create “sustained support for a child to learn and use the vocabulary and concepts and apply the lessons learned about values.”

Israeli Education Minister Yoav Galant said, “I welcome the international recognition that has been bestowed … from the U.S. Library of Congress. Reading books is an important cornerstone in acquiring education and knowledge at any age. To a great extent, a good book opens a gate to new worlds and new horizons as well as significantly helping to enrich language. This is precisely why the Ministry of Education advances a wide range of programs to encourage reading among children. The award is an important recognition that honors all those involved in this important work.”

Major funding for KGI comes from the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Funding for the Arabic language program is also provided by Price Philanthropies of San Diego. Maktabat al-Fanoos is the largest Arabic book-gifting program in the world and focuses on books that stress universal humanistic values and children's day-to-day dilemmas.

“We take great pride in our efforts to provide free books to the vast majority of young children in Israel in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education and fellow funders, and it is an honor for Keren Grinspoon Israel to be recognized for this work. Given the growing evidence that exposure to books from a young age plays such an important role in human development, we see our investment as an impactful way to support the State of Israel and its next generation,” said founder Harold Grinspoon.  

Dozens of Israeli books used in the Hebrew program have been translated to English, Spanish, Russian, and other languages for PJ Library, which now has programs in 29 countries to provide free Jewish-content children’s books to share Jewish culture, heritage, and values.
Keren Grinspoon Israel was founded in 2009 to promote literacy through the gift of books to the young children of Israel. In partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education, the Foundation distributes about 3.5 million books in Hebrew and Arabic to more than 500,000 children annually. KGI’s Sifriyat Pijama program is modeled after the PJ Library® program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, developed in the United States to share Jewish culture, heritage, and values. In 2014, KGI launched its sister program, Maktabat al-Fanoos, to encourage literacy and a love of reading among Israeli Arab children. The aim is to stimulate a love of books and shared parent-child reading while also strengthening values education and ethnic identity, including language skills. The books are free to 100% of Arab children and 80% of Hebrew-speaking children in Israeli public schools from preschool through second grade. 

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation supports programs that strive to strengthen the Jewish community by nurturing new generations, cultivating legacy giving, and investing in experiences that enhance the Jewish continuity. To learn more, visit hgf.org.