A dear old friend of mine is extremely ill, unable to do much more than sleep and walk a few yards every hour or so. We recently had a short phone conversation and after ending the call, I wondered how I could support him in a way that would communicate my care for him. So, I bought him a delightful book he can enjoy.
Gifting a book that is well suited to its recipient is natural for book-loving adults to do. However, the gifting of a book to a sick friend or for a birthday is not a natural activity for children–at least not until we teach them both the how and why of such generosity.
Children can benefit from watching us select a special book along with an explanation about the motive behind our action.
“I’m looking for a book that Kevin will enjoy, one that will give us something to talk about as he is getting better. Can you help me think of what kind of book he might like?”
And hearing us discuss our goals and intentions with a bookstore clerk who we employ to assist us in our search can underscore for kids how meaningful book gifts can be.
“I’m looking for a book about the indigenous peoples of southwestern United States for a friend of mine. Can you suggest a few good reads?”
Conversations like these communicate that books have special, lasting value. By sharing our intentions, we can focus children upon the rich possibilities of each book option.
As a book is chosen, we must discuss with children our hopes for the impact of the book-gift on our friend.
“This book should help Kevin feel better! He really enjoys history and the Southwest.”
Children also should be involved as we demonstrate why and how to add a written inscription on the inside the cover of the book. Something as simple as, “We hope you feel better soon” or as complex as “I’m glad you are my friend and I look forward to spending more time with you.”
The actual delivering of the book-gift is the capstone of this kind of generosity. Being involved in smilingly handing the book to its recipient can solidify for children the good feelings of being sensitive to the needs of others along with the fact that the book, after its read and finds a home on our friend’s bookshelf, will serve as an icon of love and friendship long into the future.