I feel like I’m giving something useful, fun, entertaining, and educational. I also feel like I’m being thoughtful of the family of the recipient. Books are not noisy, battery-draining, real-estate hogging gifts. They can be used again and again and then passed on lovingly to someone else to enjoy. I feel like I’m contributing to their family library.
Research shows that there is an important relationship between the number of books in a home library and the outcomes for children (Sikora et al., 2019). This study looked at the literacy, numeracy and ICT skills of adults and measured this against the number of books in the home library when the person was 16 years old. It found that a home library of about 80 books lead to average levels of skills, and that as the number of books increased so did the skills.
The results also showed that university graduates who had few books growing up had lower literacy, numeracy, and tech skills than those from high book-holding households but only secondary school educations. And the good news is that the effects of a larger home library (80-350 books) could be seen from as early as fourth grade. To me, gifting books is equivalent to me gifting better opportunities and outcomes for the children receiving them.
But not everyone feels the same way about children’s books as I do. I know that for some children unwrapping a book or two does not satisfy the excitement and anticipation that has been building up for their birthday or Christmas Day. This can especially be the case for children who struggle to read and find it a chore. It’s the same as someone giving me a Tax Return to fill out – yes, it’s good for me in the long run and I’ll learn, but’s its not something I rejoice over.
So, to fulfill my desire to gift books and to have my gifts received with joy, I have devised a little rule for the dozens of children’s gifts I organise each year. I try my very best to pair a book with a complementary toy, game, puzzle, craft or activity. Sometimes I search, plan, and think about what the child would be excited about opening and then try match a book to that. Or I have a special book in mind and try to find a toy or game that would supplement that book. I’ll give a few of my favourite examples.
We love a cooperative board game called Outfoxed! I wanted to give it to a nephew for Christmas as he was the right age and had enjoyed playing it at our house. So, I thought about a book with a ‘fox’ theme and came up with Liarbird, by Philip Bunting. While the fox character is minor, its impact is crucial to the story.
I love Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers. It’s simple, yet highly entertaining and effective storytelling and it all begins when Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree. So, paring this book with a big, bright kite is a great gift.
There is a quote attributed to prolific children’s author Kate Di Camillo: “reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift”. So don’t forget that when gifting a book, you ought to be prepared to read it aloud the minute the child unwraps it. For, arguably the most important part of the gift is in the building of connection. Reference
Sikora, J., Evans, M. D. R., & Kelley, J. (2019). Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies. Social Science Research, 77, 1-15. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.10.003
Cherie Bell is a mother to 4 primary school aged
unholy terrors children. She has tried to parent intentionally and impart a love of books, stories and reading to her kids. This led to a blog (Bookingfor4.com), which led to reviewing for the CBCA and Kirkus, and she is now completing a MIS with CSU. She can be found on Instagram and Facebook, and on her blog there is a section – A Book and A Toy - devoted to gift ideas for kids.