Early Childhood Jewish Education

Early Childhood Education

There are about twenty Jewish early childhood education programs in the Greater Toronto Area. This first Dashboard includes metrics representing four of these programs, therefore representing data from a small part of Toronto’s Jewish education story. Future iterations of the Dashboard may include more data from programs. This is an area where there is an opportunity to gather additional data to uncover further trends and insights.

Why is this important?

There is a growing awareness of the importance of early childhood education for Jewish families. Research shows the importance of early childhood experiences–from birth through 5 years–on a child’s future growth and development. Early Jewish experiences profoundly affect a person’s later attitude towards, and interest in Judaism. According to Mark I. Rosen, Ph.D. of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, “Exposure to Judaism at home and in childcare can help children to grow up with a strong Jewish identity.”

Pre-school programs and those targeting young families such as PJ Library enable parents to develop peer groups that create Jewish connections. In turn, this heavily influences the decisions families make about preschool and further Jewish education, as well as the importance of Judaism in home life.

What are the trends?

PJ Library, which was first introduced in York Region in 2010 and expanded to the City of Toronto in 2014, brings Jewish books into the homes of families with young children. Between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, household participation in PJ Library grew by 23% – extraordinary growth for a single year.

A recent survey of PJ Library families revealed that 44% of families read these books at least once a week.1 Enrollment in Jewish early childhood centers has remained constant over the two years for the four programs counted.

What’s new?

Recognizing the value of PJ Library as an onramp to further Jewish experiences, UJA is actively working with institutions that engage young families- day and supplementary schools, camps, synagogues, and JCCs to run programs and activities targeted towards these participants. In 2016/17 over 150 programs will be run under the PJ Library umbrella. For more information about PJ Library, click here.

How are we doing?

PJ Library has transformed the landscape of early childhood engagement. 83% of families report that PJ Library enhanced their family life and 88% note that books encourage their children to ask questions about Jewish topics.2

[1, 2] Rosov Consulting. 2016 Survey of PJ Library Participants(2016).