A Happy Literary Christmas to All

Dear Parents,
When Christmas morning finally arrives, many children will be bursting at the seams to see what awaits them in those mysteriously shaped packages they’ve been eyeing under the tree, and trying to guess their contents.
Most children will find among the plethora of new electronic gadgets, games and sports paraphernalia, at least one or perhaps more flat, rectangular-shaped gifts. Here there is no mystery — it is the predictable book.
For some children, as they handle the package and try to guess what’s inside, you can see it written all over their faces — they  know it’s a book, and this is often a “bah humbug” moment for them. “Oh I know … it’s a book.” On to the next gift.
On Christmas morning, next to clothing items, books often come near the bottom of the excitement scale for most younger children. It’s the world of toys that adds sparkle to those eager little eyes.
As the day progresses, however, and the newly opened toys eventually lose their initial zing, books become the quiet friend children like to curl up with at the end of this magical day.
As I look at the wish lists of my family members, every person has at least one book they’re hoping to receive at Christmas.
My daughters are all readers; they grew up with those rectangular packages every Christmas, for birthdays and in Easter baskets as well.
Each Christmas, along with the decorations, out comes the collection of favorite holiday books that have become old family friends, accumulated throughout the years.  They are placed in the family room for everyone to examine once again.
Well-loved and well-worn, these treasured books will be out in a basket for the grandchildren to start enjoying. Their mommies used to love the “Christmas Scratch and Sniff” —  all the sniff is pretty much gone, but it’s fun to look at anyway — 35 years later.
The love of reading is a gift parents, grandparents, aunties and friends can encourage in children by introducing them to the well-loved characters that generations of children have befriended within the pages of books.
Winnie the Pooh, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, Mary Poppins, Alice, Babar, Rat and Toad, Robinson Crusoe, Madeline, and all the others, have taken children on far-flung adventures and captured their imaginations, as well as offering children a unique way of viewing the world. There is not any “bah humbug” found with these friends.
While in England a few summers ago, I walked for 100 miles along the Thames River Path with a friend. As we neared the village of Marlow, we looked across the river to the Quarry Wood, which was the inspiration for the “Wild Wood” in the book, “The Wind in the Willows.” We stopped to watch the breezes blowing the willow trees as they skirted the Thames River, and imagined Badger, Mole and Rat having the great adventure described by the author, Kenneth Grahame. We had both read about these lovable characters when we were children.
More lasting than this season’s “it” toy, books have staying power. They provide a universal experience of childhood. They connect generations. They invite calm and comfort for children. They bond children with their friends, siblings, parents and grandparents.
While browsing at Vroman’s recently, I saw a grandmother patiently following her elementary school-age granddaughter along the book shelves. As the girl chatted about the books that interested her, Grandma kept a list. She will no doubt be wrapping a least one flat rectangular package to place under the Christmas tree this year.
And that unassuming package may well be opened last on a hectic Christmas morning, but when it is, the hidden treasure of a book will launch an exciting world of adventure for a granddaughter. It will introduce her to new friends and far-flung places, it will connect her to Grandma, and it will for certain give her a reason to cozy up at the end of a magical day.
Under your Christmas tree this year you may want to tuck a literary treasure for each of your children, no matter what age they are. Then spend time reading with them — perhaps this is the gift they need most of all this year:  time spent with you.

TRY THIS:
1. Leave favorite Christmas books out for family members to enjoy during the holidays.
2. Choose a gift book that fits your child’s current interest and reading level.
3. Spend time during the Christmas season reading aloud to your children — preferably in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate.
4. Purchase a new Christmas book each year for the family to share. Consider one of these, available at bookstores: “The Nutcracker” by Jeffers (child-friendly text, and actually shows ballet dancers); “Gingerbread Friends” by Brett (luscious illustrations);  “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Robinson (a great family read-aloud);  “The Night Before Christmas” illustrated by Englebreit (magical and bursting with color); “The Twelve Prayers of Christmas, by Chand (hear voices of those who were there that night — shepherd, angel, wise man, star); “Let It Snow” by Hobbie (the Christmas friendship of Toot and Puddle).

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