To my detriment my kids understand too well the weak spot that I have for books. When we are at the shopping mall my son will always beg to go into the book store. He knows that his chances of a treat in there are higher than in any other store at our local Westfield.
While I tend to give away the vast majority of books I am given to review, my own children are book hoarders. I love the glint they each get in their eyes when they have a crisp new book to read, and so, their personal collections keep growing; spilling in fact, from their book shelf to cover every available space in their rooms and everywhere else. While I could bemoan the mess (and I often am heard to scream ‘Put these books away so I have some space to cook dinner!’), this is a good thing. After all, as a wise person once said, ‘Books are the only thing that money can buy that will make you richer.’
This brings me to my 8th tip. Reward kids with books. In fact, I’m going to extend this to rewarding children with books and anything related to books. For teachers this translates to book marks and reading related stickers. It also might mean giving children the special experience to watch the movie version of a book they read and enjoyed, or, attend a book talk of one of their favourite authors.
There was a time once, in the not so distant past, when books were considered a luxury and the few volumes that people owned, were treasured and read, cover to cover, many times. If you go into any antiquarian bookstore you can find old books, gifted to students as academic prizes, the fact which is recorded on the inside cover with a book-plate. Do schools still do this? I suppose in this information rich age, for many communities this is considered unnecessary, as children already have a lot of books. However, in this country there are still too many homes for which books are noticeable by their absence.
About a year ago I made a commitment. With three children and an abundance of birthday parties to attend, I would commit to only buying books as gifts. ‘But Mum’, my eldest daughter said at the time, “. . . we like books but most of our friends can’t stand them.” I must admit, at first, her statement threw me a little. How could anyone not get excited by the prospect of a new book? Of course, as an English teacher, I’ve seen the general apathy towards books from too many of my students. Irrespective of this, I vowed to honour this commitment. I just needed to try harder, do some research and select a book appropriate for the given child’s interests. Since this time I have purchased books for my children’s friends, many of whom are reluctant readers. Quite often they have approached me later to thank me for the book and tell me how much they enjoyed it. It seems that even children who express their reluctance to read will appreciate a book if it has been selected for them, based on their personal interests.
Of course buying books can become an expensive activity. It is the main reason why I have become one of the book depository’s best customers. As educators with limited resources, we need to think outside the box on this one. I have one colleague who created laminated bookmarks for her secondary students. Each of the bookmarks was personalised with images that tapped into the various interests of the students. No doubt flattered by the extra care and effort taken, the students thought they were awesome.
How do you use books (or book related items) as gifts for children? What tips do you have for doing this in a cost effective way?