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!