Instead of being bogged down in toys, video games and electronics this holiday season, visit a local bookstore to finish your Christmas shopping.
Books are simple, often inexpensive and personal. Books given at Christmas are an opportunity to encourage children to continue to read while on break from school. For a child who does not like reading, receiving a book from Santa Claus may seem disappointing, but it may help him or her develop a love for recreational reading.
As the holidays roll around, many Families are digging out classic Christmas stories such as “The Night Before Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Polar Express.”
About a dozen Families brought their children to a recent storytime at Robert F. Sink Memorial Library to hear Jennifer Seabrooks-Riggins, acquisitions and programming librarian, read two stories. The librarian also leads the children in sing-a-longs, dancing and crafting as part of the weekly program.
Dressed in an Elsa costume, with braids in her hair, 2-year-old Adeline Ramirez, excitedly clapped her hands and stomped her feet while singing “Wheels on the Bus.” Adeline said “Frozen” books featuring her favorite Disney princess, Elsa, are her favorite to read. Adeline’s mom, Jessica Acosta, said they are looking forward to checking out lots of books from the library during the holidays, including “Frozen” books.
Acosta said they read together as a Family nearly every night, taking extra time to look at all of the illustrations in each book they read.
Sara O’Donnell, and her daughter, Sage, 4, also enjoyed the storytime. Afterward, they returned to the children’s library to pick out a stack of books. In addition to the classic Christmas books, O’Donnell said her Family enjoys reading “A Very Marley Christmas” around this time of year. They also recently checked out a “Nutcracker” pop-up book Sage loved. O’Donnell said they are considering buying a copy of the book to add to their own collection.
“Reading is a very important part of our everyday life. Some books we read together as a Family and some they read themselves. While we love coming to the library, we also like to purchase books to have for our own collection at home,” O’Donnell said.
Seabrooks-Riggins said books make great Christmas gifts for numerous reasons.
“If it is a fiction book, which I hope it is, it allows the children to escape and get away from whatever their situation is,” she said.
Books can be passed down from generation to generation and also passed around from child to child.
“Once a child is finished reading that book they may choose to read it over again. When they are done with the book they can pass it on to someone else. Giving someone a book is like giving a gift that keeps on giving,” she said.
When buying books for the library, Seabrooks-Riggins mostly focuses on the book’s title. The title has to be creative and unusual.
“I like catchy titles, because if it catches my eye, it’s also going to catch the parent’s attention,” she said. “Buying for the children’s section is very fun. I buy based on the book’s review and then on the book itself – whether it holds my attention or not. If it can keep my focus it will also keep the parents’ and children’s.”
Shopping for infants
No one is too young for a book, Seabrooks-Riggins said. For infants, she recommends buying board books. Board books are printed on thick paper board, making them drool-friendly and more durable.
“Babies need books too,” she said. “Infants need books of their own so they learn how to handle books. Without them having those board books they don’t learn how to handle books. If you give them a regular book they are going to tear that book into pieces,” she said.
Teach your baby about nature by buying them “In My Tree” written by Sara Gillingham and illustrated by Lorena Siminovich. This book features a small felt owl finger puppet as the book’s main character. Turn the pages of this chunky board book to learn what makes this owl’s tree so cozy. Continue the interactive, hands-on learning experience by purchasing more books in this series such as “In my Ocean,” “In My Forest” and “In my Jungle.” Each book comes with an attached finger puppet used to bring the story to life for the youngest of readers.
If you want to make storytime a bit noisier, consider purchasing a noisy board book such as “Noisy Robots” written by Sam Taplin and illustrated by Andy Elkerton. A sound panel down the side of the book features eight buttons to press that allow children to hear the robots beeping, buzzing and clanking. Publisher Usborne offers many books in this style with additional titles such as “Noisy Bottoms,” “Noisy Diggers” and “Noisy Dinosaurs.”
Shopping for toddlers
Books for toddlers should have more pictures than words, Seabrooks-Riggins said.
“You want to try to get them the picture books and easy readers. Those books tend to have more pictures, although they can be wordy. However, the parents can read to them to help with that,” she said.
Little ones learning how to work through their emotions may enjoy reading “The Pout-Pout Fish,” that tells the tale of a deep sea fish whose face is stuck in a permanent pout. However, readers learn his friends may be able to put a smile on his face with a little bit of work. Written by Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Dan Hanna, this book is sure to turn some frowns upside down.
“Giraffes Can’t Dance” written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, is perfect for the little dancers on your shopping list this Christmas. This book is about Gerald the Giraffe who wants to do nothing more than dance, despite his crooked knees and thin legs. Young readers will enjoy rhymes and lively illustrations while flipping through this book.
Shopping for school-aged children
Once children begin attending school, it is important to provide them with recreational reading to enjoy after school.
“When buying books for [school-aged] youth, the key is to pick out something they really like,” she said. “A lot of kids that age are into anime and fantasy books, so try to pique their interest by talking to them and finding out what they actually like. A lot of kids are reluctant readers because they are forced to read. They are reading things they don’t enjoy, so they think reading is boring, but it’s not … reading is such an enjoyment.”
Children in this age range are ready to take on chapter books, Seabrooks-Riggins said.
Youth who are interested in robots can dive into the world of Roz, a robot abandoned on an isolated island in author Peter Brown’s “The Wild Robot.” Roz’s journey is a narrative of adaption, resilience and survival. The sequel “The Wild Robot Escapes” continues the action-packed adventure in the civilized world.
For the whimsical youngsters on your shopping list, check out Liz Kessler’s underwater adventures featuring “Emily Windsnap,” who is half-human, half-mermaid. There are six books in the Emily Windsnap collection with titles such as “Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep” and “Emily Windsnap and the Ship of Lost Souls.”