Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why I give books as Christmas presents

Years ago I started a tradition: I always get books for presents for the kids I babysit for.  Even my adult friends often get books or gift cards to bookstores.  But especially with the kids I work for, most of whom have mountains of toys, iPods, iPads, and any other thing they want, I've always wanted to give them the real gift in this scenario: the value of books and reading.

Most of the kids I babysit for don't have an issue with that.  Some of them can devour my gift in a day or two.  Others, such of the youngest of three kids that I've babysat for since college, complain loudly every year about my gift of books.  (He's getting better about that, but slowly.)

Then there was this article on Huffington Post about giving books as presents, which reminded me why exactly I do this:

Unfortunately, for too many kids in low-income communities, a good read is out of reach. Families lack books at home, with as many as 60 percent of low-income households not having a single book to read to their children. Schools and public libraries in low-income communities are short on resources as well, with 80 percent of education programs having no books at all for the children they serve. In those neighborhoods, there can be as few as one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. In the absence of interesting and informative books, consistent reading to and by children fades, impacting their cognitive development from a very early age. 

The kids I take care of are nowhere near low-income, of course.  They are the children of wealthy, often workaholic parents, so they have plenty of money for books, but that doesn't always mean they have an automatic value for literature or reading.  If they don't have adults modeling a love of reading to them, if they don't have people valuing books and presenting them as gifts, who's to say all their parents' money will be any advantage at all in this respect?

Simply having books around isn't enough.  Kids also have to be shown that reading is a worthwhile activity.  They have to be brought up to want to read.

So if you're looking for gift ideas this holiday season, consider books.  There really is almost never a more perfect gift.

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