This weekend, I've been making my holiday gift list and checking it twice, and while I kind of feel like I should just be able to buy “books” for everyone and be done with it (isn’t that what they expect anyway?), it’s not that easy. In a perfect world, I would carefully hand-select two or three tomes that were entertaining, new-to-them, thought-provoking, deep discussion-starting, playful, irresistible, highly relatable, incredibly written, masterfully illustrated, and so on and so forth. Alas, just getting past the “new-to-them” part is, in real life, no easy task. I am pretty good at doing it for the adults in my life, but for the kids in my extended family, I have come up with another plan.
(Don’t read this, kids!)
One year for Christmas, when we were fairly little, my grandparents took my sister and I shopping and let us pick out our own dolls. I think we might have also gotten holiday dresses or shoes, but, of course, I remember the dolls. It was to be only part of our gift that year, but it was an unusual treat for us. I felt so important, shopping in that big department store, with my impeccably dressed grandparents. It’s hard to specifically recall other gifts received over the years, but that experience stays in my memory. (And, thinking back, bonus time for my parents!)
Truthfully, the other gift that stands out in my mind was an art kit I received one year from my aunt. I was only ten, but rather than get me a preassembled kit for kids, she went to an art store and purchased the “real” stuff, from fancy colored pencils to the storage box (I still have!).
My point in telling those stories is this: gift cards and money tend to float back and forth as gifts during the holidays because we expect to please (and be pleased). Instead, consider giving a reading “kit”, with a book-related gift and a trip to the local bookstore (or, okay, a gift card, if you must). Here are some ideas, for readers and budgets, big and small.
You might be able to get away with choosing a nice picture book for these kiddos! From traditional stories, like “Corduroy” by Don Freeman, to more modern classics such as “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” by Mo Willems and “The Pout-Pout Fish” by Deborah Diesen, many picture books now have matching plush characters. If you have additional funds in your budget, many of these characters appear in several books, or you could pair them with a fun child-size tote bag, pillow or blanket.
BONUS! Early chapter books, like “Dog Man” by Dav Pilkey, also have matching plush figures, and are perfect for kids in Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
If your burgeoning bookworm has a favorite literary character, it can be difficult to know which books they have already read. Here is the perfect opportunity to pair a gift “trip” (or card) to the bookstore with a gift to match their passion. Does she love “Ivy and Bean”, a series written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall? Look for the Ivy and Bean Paper Dolls, or the “Ivy + Bean + Me: A Fill-in-the-Blank Book”. For fans of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Percy Jackson”, there are special editions of “Mad Libs” – just slip your shopping coupon or gift card inside the front cover and wrap!
BONUS! Many kids are exposed to real-life characters in school and literature, and become interested in learning more about them. Check out “Frida’s Frocks and Smocks – Frida Kahlo Magnetic Dress Up Play Set”, and your little gift recipient may head toward the biography section when you take your trip to the bookstore! Other sets in the series include folks like Shakespeare, Mr. Rogers and Albert Einstein.
Perhaps you know that your young gift recipient would most appreciate the tallest stack of books possible, and while you are happy to indulge, it is still nice to have something to unwrap. How about a new mug with an envelope of hot cocoa mix to enjoy while reading their new books? Or, if you live in an area that stays nice and toasty warm, a cute tumbler with lemonade packets? Just tuck your book coupon right inside, along with an inexpensive bookmark or two.
BONUS! If you have the complete opposite of a voracious reader (a reluctant reader?), be sure to indulge their passions rather than pushing reading. One book, or the promise of an excursion to a bookstore in the weeks to come is fine, as long as it is in addition to something else that really excites them.
Truthfully, you could pair the promise of new books with so many different gifts. How about a funny tote bag with a new book light? Encourage a youthful reader to create a fun place to read with a reading (or “lounge”) pillow, soft blanket, beanbag chair, or even a fort building kit.
BONUS! For an all-out, no holds barred, family gift, consider pulling ideas from all of these categories and make one big Family Reading Kit. Circle a quiet afternoon date on the calendar sometime in the next two months, and take everyone out to choose two or three books each to enjoy. Maybe you will even be able to share some of them!
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What other reading gift ideas do you have? Do you have a favorite childhood gift or memory of a holiday experience?
Hey, kids! I told you to stop reading! All right, just pretend to be surprised...