When you think of spring, what comes to mind? For me, it’s rain showers and daffodils, brisk walks and sunny days that hint at summer, spring cleaning and an opportunity for a refresh. The idea of a spring refresh is what inspired this post. Well, that, and a program called PJ Library, which I’ll get to in a minute.
I have a 2-year-old daughter who loves to read, so we have a bookshelf brimming with books. We’ve read them again and again and again, to the point where I could probably recite the lines word for word with my eyes closed. Over time, I’ve found myself looking for new ways to reinvigorate and reinvent our book selection.
One of these ways is PJ Library. It’s a free book and music delivery program for kids aged 6 months to 8 years. PJ stands for pajamas, since many families read stories together at bedtime. My daughter and I love seeing what’s inside our PJ Library envelope each month and reading our new stories together.
Every book is carefully selected by a committee of writers, early childhood professionals, and content specialists who seek out compelling stories, captivating illustrations, and diverse perspectives on Jewish customs and practice. The stories are age-appropriate and grow with your child, from simple board books to more advanced literature for older kids. And while the stories have Jewish elements and touch upon Jewish culture in an accessible way, the themes are universal — from sharing to expressing gratitude to being a good friend.
But what about our other books? How can we give them a spring-inspired makeover? As I’ve read and re-read our many favorites, I’ve realized that there are creative ways to reinvent them. To make them feel fresh and different even though the pages are loved and well-worn. And now, I’m going to share them with you:
1) Read it… but in a new way.
It turns out I’m not the only one who has memorized our books. One day, I intentionally paused after reading a line, and my daughter piped up to finish the sentence! Since then, I’ve started leaving blanks when I read to her, and, more often than not, she jumps right in. Sometimes she asks to read to me and then tells me her own version of what’s happening in the story.
2) Sing it.
Many books have a lyrical quality with intentional meter and rhyme, so make it musical! It doesn’t matter if you’re not confident with your singing voice or ability to invent a tune. Your kids won’t care! But if you want to start somewhere, you can do a quick look on YouTube. Thanks to one such search, we now sing “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” every time!
3) Find it.
Children’s books often have beautiful illustrations and playful details. Take advantage of this by turning any book into a look-and-find. Ask your child what they see, discuss what’s happening in the picture, and talk about the characters. I’ve found this has helped expand my daughter’s vocabulary, and I’ve been amazed at how much she has been able to recognize and identify even before she’s learned to say the words.
4) Act it out.
You can try using different voices for the characters, and if you have an older child, encourage them to read one of the parts. Another idea? Get up and move around like the characters in the story, and encourage your kids to do the same. When we go to yoga class, our instructor always includes a story incorporating yoga poses. You might have to get creative, but that’s the point! Try child’s pose for a turtle, tree pose for a flamingo, and downward dog for any puppies you see.
Are you ready to give your storytime a spring refresh? Take it from my daughter and I — it can make those old books so much fun! And if you’re interested in adding some brand new titles to your bookshelves, you can learn more about PJ Library here.