As everyone knows the gift of a thoughtfully chosen book for a birthday or holiday can be a winner. But wait! Maybe we don’t all know that yet, at least not in the fullest possible sense. It can be a literacy seed, planted in a family, neighborhood and community.
Books are perfect gifts for every age because they aren’t static objects. Indeed, they teem with potential and bloom as they’re enjoyed. The blooming is in the sharing and reading of a book and in the subsequent conversations with relatives and neighbors about its story or content, the author’s richness of language and the illustrator’s touch that enrich and magnify its value.
But wait! There’s more…
Books aren’t just meant to read once and then dismissed onto a shelf. Like a unique treat, they’re meant to be savored time after time through rereading and perhaps most importanty through sharing.
Children must be shown how to savor books, which includes engaging in focused conversation around the uniqueness of individual characters, the surprise about newly discovered ideas and information, the stepping back into one’s own life with the new reading experience in mind, and reflecting with trusted others about what the book really means on a personal level.
A gifted book doesn’t have to be a new book, either. Surely a brand new book donned in a fancy dust cover is elegant, but no less joy can be shared by giving a dog-eared treasure found at a yard sale, or simply handing a still-warm book we’ve just finished and delivered with a smiling recommendation. A book’s value isn’t about how it looks, but about the insights into humanity and the information about the world that it leaves with each reader.
Neither does a book gift to a young reader have to be one they can comfortably read alone. Gifting a book that’s above a child’s independent reading ability lights the path forward, providing an opportunity for novice and to reading together, or lovingly introducing a child to a new genre (e.g., poetry, drama, fantasy).
The book gift should be engaging for a particular child. Some kids love big trucks and machinery. Others delight in superheroes or horses. Every topic has its young fans.
And at least the first reading of a new book absolutely DOES require more than a bed-time-rush open-read-close with a trusted adult. Time taken to inspect illustrations and diagrams along with pauses for thinking and talking about the running text and tale will expand a book’s impression and impact and the child’s insight into new possibilities.
The real power of any book is how it can engage a whole family through sharing it and how that engagement can grow as it’s shared with friends and neighbors. For that reason, book giving can and perhaps should be a much more elaborate interaction between the giver and the receiver than just delivering a thoughtfully selected, prettily wrapped present.