When I was a child, my aunt and uncle, who lived in Chicago, would always send me a cool present for Christmas. I would eagerly run home from school looking for that package attached to the mailbox. It would be wrapped in brown paper and string.
The packaging paper would be removed on Christmas Eve, displaying festive gift wrap. I would examine the gift to try to figure out it’s contents.
One year I knew it was a book. I loved to read, and I couldn’t wait to find out the title. I got to open it on Christmas Eve. It was L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I had already seen the movie, but the book was mesmerizing. There were just enough pictures to add to the print, and it interested me to compare the differences between the book and the film.
There was much activity in our house around Christmas, but that year, like Dorothy, I landed in Oz.
As a teacher, I tried to give students books for special occasions and holidays. My students and I would get discounts through the Scholastic Book Club. Since many of my students had reading difficulities, I tried to find books that connected them to their interests. Between Scholastic and used book stores, I was able to find reasonably priced books.
The other night while celebrating the holiday season at a nice restaurant, I noticed a young couple seated near us with a child who I guessed to be around three. They had propped up an iPad and the boy intently watched a children’s holiday movie. This is a common thing to do, I’m sure, but I’d never noticed it in a restaurant before.
The child never grew impatient as his parents ate their meal, and the rest of us enjoyed solitude as well. I write a lot about technology as a threat to schools, teachers, and learning, but I thought this was nice use of it. I remember the difficulty of eating out and trying to keep a toddler quiet. I probably would have done the same thing. Technology can be a plus, and used appropriately, can make life nice.
That said, reports indicate that too much screen time for young children can be detrimental. A little goes a long way.
Reading and hearing words read develop a child’s imagination. It’s more active than passively watching a program on a television or iPad where much of the work is done for you. The brain must work harder to imagine what the author is trying to convey in a book.
Yet movies are fun and can encourage children who find reading difficult. I often showed book movies to motivate students too. Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and The Education of Little Tree were favorites. My high school students were riveted by the movie The Diary of Anne Frank. Weaving books and film together can be helpful.
Finding the right book for a child takes effort, especially if they don’t like to read or aren’t good at reading. But I’ve never known a student who didn’t like a book gift if the book involved their interests. I think it means something special if they see that you gave them and the book extra thought.
Giving just the right book to a child as a gift for Christmas, or any other special occasion, can boost their enjoyment to read. And sharing a film that might lead them to the book could be helpful.
Don’t forget comic books. And if you can afford it, a magazine subscription to Highlights for Children, Lady Bug, or numerous other magazines is a gift that keeps on giving all year round. Most children love animals and Ranger Rick magazines.
I still own that copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. When I pick it up and look at it, I remember that wonderful evening when I got lost in the story. It was the right book for me, at the right time.
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
John Mountford says
A lovely way to prepare for the holiday. Thank you, Nancy, for adding to my reading pleasure at the same time as stimulating my curiosity and informing me of how similar and different life is in your great country. Happy Holiday.
Nancy Bailey says
Best wishes, John! Thank you for your always insightful comments and helping to compare education notes between our countries.
Jo Lieb says
Wonderful reminder of the magic of books. I always make sure my grand babies receive real books for Christmas gifts. It delights me they read. Too many of my at risk students have never read a novel. This should not be the norm. Reading must be for all – not just the privileged.
Merry Christmas dear friend.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for your comment, Jo. Merry Christmas to my friend and favorite poetry teacher!
Sue Bursztynski says
As a teacher librarian I have never had any huge problem with finding books even for reluctant readers. Their teachers would send them to me quoting me as having said that if you hate reading it’s because you haven’t yet found the right book. Often the right book for a reluctant reader is non fiction of the entertaining kind – I haven’t yet met a child or teen who wouldn’t read a book about something true that interested them.
The youngest members of my family, my nephew’s little boys, are both readers, one of them a passionate reader who is reading way ahead of his age group. I have no hesitation in giving him a gift voucher to a wonderful local bookshop. His parents take him to choose his own and he adores the magic of having this little card for, say, $30, which lets him choose pretty much anything in the children’s section. When the boys were younger their grandmother took them to the local library, but they are now at school, which fortunately has its own library.
Have a great Christmas and New Year!
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks for this great point, Sue! Children love to go to bookstores and pick out their own books! Younger children especially get excited to learn that adults trust them to pick out their own reading material.
Thank you for your interesting comments. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Roy Turrentine says
I was too busy to read this earlier. It reminded me of a general rule I have for buying presents that an old high school friend taught me. When she returned for our twenty year reunion, she brought a housewarming gift of two coffee mugs. I am a fool for good pottery, and these mugs were a constant reminder of my good friend. I have had occasion to use that idea of in giving . I like to give people things they will use. My nephew, who makes high end classical guitars (brief pause for advertisement. Check out zebturrentine.com), sent me a pic of a set of Christmas present clamps securing part of guitar 31 some years ago.
Books are similar. Merry Christmas, Nancy. Thanks for your blog.