Books are Gifts that Keep Giving

In this season of sharing I received an unexpectedly lovely gift. Five siblings under the age of eight showed up with their mom, Rebecca Sutphin, at the Children’s Reading Alliance warehouse with big smiles and a box of books that they had outgrown. Each family member had picked out their favorites to pass on to other children.

Their donation came at a fortuitous time. Social service agencies have been calling us looking for books to give young clients for Christmas. Children’s Reading Alliance tries to provide new books as often as we can, but sometimes the demand exceeds our supply. That’s when gently loved books are placed in new homes.

Perhaps you too are considering books as gifts this holiday season. With families spread across continents, a book can make a personal connection to a loved one far away. There are so many beautiful books available on every subject that it is often hard to choose. Here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind.

There are tons of good choices for babies and toddlers. Sturdy books with washable surfaces are always a good bet. Wordless books with bold, simple pictures or photographs of objects in their world provide information and stimulate imagination. Remember that babies learn about the environment through their senses so books with textures to touch are popular with little ones. Don’t be surprised if your recipient shows appreciation by chewing on the corners; that’s just an expression of exploration and enjoyment. Brightly colored pictures accompanied by simple rhythmic texts are also popular with this age group.

Preschoolers and non-readers enjoy lots of rhythm, rhyming, and repetition in their books. Nursery rhymes, poems, finger plays and songs provide opportunity for lots of repeated pleasure. Brace yourself and go with the flow by remembering that repetition of sounds is an important developmental pre-reading skill. Books with sturdy pop ups or moving parts provide intriguing surprises.

Beginning readers, usually ages 5 through 8, still enjoy being read to, so if you will be together for the holidays, this can be a great time to share your old favorites during read aloud story times together. Funny poems and riddles are favorites too. By this age, the best present may be the act of shopping and purchasing the book together. It’s hard to know what size font, amount of text on the page and special interests will be a just right fit.

For older children, remember to pay attention to the preferences of the recipient. Consider the child’s personality and expressed interests. You don’t want your gift to have the allure of a pair of socks because you don’t know the current hot topic. There are books on almost any subject that appeals to your young reader.

Perhaps you remember a special book from your own childhood that will resonate and give both the giver and the recipient something to discuss.

Don’t overlook the appeal of beautifully rendered wordless books. These stories, told completely in pictures, provide mysteries to solve and stimulate the imagination at every age.

No money? No problem! Your gift of time is priceless. Trips to the library or bookstore for story time will become special treats for both of you. A library card, and regularly scheduled visits to check out books are fun and provide long cherished memories. Even if you and your child are not together often, a private story time that is a tradition for just the two of you is a real memory maker.

No child in your life to share your love of reading? There’s a solution for that too! Children’s Reading Alliance can help you give the gift of literacy to a child. A donation of ten dollars provides 3 paperback books for struggling readers. Thirty dollars will send an age appropriate quality children’s book each month for a year to a preschooler at home. Through your contributions CRA supports literacy opportunities for families with limited resources. Visit our website to learn more.