Library of Congress Honors the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s Programs in Israel
Sept. 15, 2020 – The U.S. 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.
Keren Grinspoon Israel distributes some 3.5 million books in Hebrew and Arabic each year to more than 500,000 Israeli children, operating through preschools and schools in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Education. These sister programs help to expand the global reach of the popular PJ Library program created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.
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.
KGI was granted the honor on the basis of a recommendation that noted it provided “the most active book-gifting programs in the world” in terms of the high proportion of participating Israeli children and the number of children who receive books.
Israeli Education Minister Yoav Galant said, “I welcome the international recognition that has been bestowed on Sifriyat Pijama with the award 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. We will continue to act in a variety of ways to encourage a love of reading at every age.”
Children ages 3 to 8 receive books periodically in preschool and the early elementary grades. Teachers introduce each book monthly or bimonthly, and each child receives a personal copy to take home and keep. Like the PJ Library program in the United States, the books contain parent suggestions for book-related activities and discussion. By the time an Israeli child enters third grade in public school, s/he will have a home library of at least 32 books as a result of KGI’s efforts.
Since 2009, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation has invested more than $20 million in the Israeli program, matched by Israeli government funding. Major support 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 in Sifriyat Pijama and Maktabat al-Fanoos as an impactful way to support the State of Israel and its next generation,” said founder Harold Grinspoon.
Dozens of Israeli books used initially in the Hebrew program have been translated to English, Spanish, Russian, and other languages for PJ Library, which sends out Jewish-content children’s books to families in 29 countries.
The recognition includes a modest cash prize, and winning organizations are invited to a conference with opportunities to learn from each other and develop new ideas.