The gift of reading

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Character sketch by Viola Niccolai from Deborah’s Dreams, soon to be published in The Thinking Train series. © Helbling Languages

Look at your bookshelf. Do you still remember which books were given to you as gifts? Who gave them to you and on what occasion? What did the book mean to you back then?

When someone gives us a book, they give so much more than a beautiful object. A book is a key which opens doors of faraway lands. Through the pages of our books we go on adventures, learn new things and discover emotions we might not have experienced before. We also share these experiences with each other: reading and liking the same book makes us connected in a special way.

Now, at Christmas, when we are thinking of what presents to give to our family and friends, we have a simple answer for you: give the gift of reading. Books never go out of fashion and become more and more precious each time we lift them. If you are giving a book to a child, spend time on reading to them, this way the gift becomes even more memorable, both for the giver and the receiver. Select each book carefully, but consider giving books that you like for some reason. And don’t forget to tell the person why have selected the book for them.

Days of reading

The Icelandic tradition of ‘Christmas Book Flood’ is the dream of every booklover. In Iceland people love giving books as presents on Christmas Eve, and then they spend the night together, reading. I’m sure that most of us have experienced something similar. What could be nicer than coming into a house filled with the smell of orange and spices, lit by warm candlelight and your armchair packed with lots of books? You finally get to relax and spend your days reading. Reading alone, reading to each other, reading to children.

Widening horizons

The other day I saw a nice scene in a restaurant. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, a grandmother and her little grandson sat down in the corner and ordered food. They chatted for a while and then starting reading two thick books. As we were leaving, I overheard the grandmother asking the boy what was going to happen to a certain character. He wouldn’t tell her. That was the moment I noticed they were both reading Harry Potter books, but the grandmother’s one was earlier in the series. I hadn’t expected the grandmother to be reading Harry Potter and I thought how we shouldn’t have stereotypes when choosing books for our loved ones.

Why not give books which break stereotypes and open new windows. Maybe a picture book for an adult? Or a poetry or short story collection for someone who is always on the go? An art book with a museum ticket included? Is someone planning a journey? Give them a novel which is set in that region.

Reading in new languages

I still remember my first Ladybird book in English, and of course I remember the first novels I bought in Italian. Not only children, but adults feel extremely proud when they finish reading their first book in another language. If you know someone who is learning or is dreaming about learning a new langauge, you have an easy gift solution. Give them novels, comics, picture books. Maybe not course books at this time of the year, but why not, they might need a good one. You will share the love of reading and learning at the same time, and encourage the person to get better and better at their new language.

Choose some picture books for children – Young Readers and The Thinking Train series; illustrated stories for teens and more serious fiction for adults from our Readers website.

All wrapped up

Wrapping the book is one thing, but you also want to personalize it and make it memorable. You could write a dedication on the title page. I often add comments about why and where I got a book for myself or for someone else. Some people prefer adding personalized cards or bookmarks.

You can make an ex-libris or bookplate. This small printed label contains the name of the owner, a motto or a decoration. You can paste it to the front endpaper or just put it in the book. If you are setting up a library for a child, it is a nice idea to create these bookplates with them.

Books at school

There are many children who might not receive books as presents at home. You can organize a Christmas book swap or holiday book giving event. It is a good idea to send a message to the parents so that they can help the children choose a book at home. These could be books for children or teens. The students in your class or in your whole school can participate by bringing books. On the day of the event, go to a classroom or a school hall where you can share, swap and talk about books.

Make a poster with your students to advertise the location, the date and the time of the event. Add instructions about what types of books you expect and how students can participate. Draw pictures of books to decorate the poster. The main idea is making books available in your school for everyone.

Keep gifting

If you would like to be more digital, you can also give a magazine subscription to someone. Choose the online and the print versions, and give the subscription with the first issue or on a simple card. Give someone the gift of a library. A library day and a library card can be a fun event to share with a child. Maybe you want to give it to your parents or grandparents, and spend the day in the library together. Finally, spend an afternoon in a bookshop together and choose books for each other, together.

What other gifts of reading can you think of? Share your ideas with us!

Inspiration for this post came from a book I was given as a gift, The Gifts of Reading, by Robert Macfarlane.

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