Okay, at the moment potions and lotions are a delight to the senses and the sparkle of jewelry puts a twinkle in the eye, edible gifts are always appreciated for the moment on the lips and novelty items a source of mirth and merriment in the spirit of the season. But moments pass, they are fleeting and the objects of our affection today all too often become just more stuff in our lives tomorrow. It is the same where toys are concerned.
In fact, when it comes to gifts for children I think there is great merit in the saying ‘less is more’; my fear is that more may lead to sensory overload and divert the attention from the kind of concentrated focus that is important developmentally.
So while it may be unpopular to say this, I am of the belief that a few thoughtful gifts that can be cherished and enjoyed, that capture the imagination and absorb the mind are preferable any day to a glut of things that deliver a short, sharp burst of instant gratification and then, nothing!
And so the top of my list as suitable Christmas gifts are books. Give a reader a good book and they will derive pleasure from it from the moment you gift it as they peruse its cover, flick through its’ pages, anticipate with glee and suspense the magical world it contains and the story it tells between those unassuming covers.
They will happily curl up with the book and lose themselves in another world, a world described in words on the page but brought to life in the imagination, seen in the mind’s eye with unflinching clarity, spoken with an attuned inner voice and felt passionately in the heart, an experience quite like no other, that is deceptive to the onlooker who sees a sedentary activity that belies the experiential journey the reader has set off on rapt with delight.
The pleasure from a good book lasts long after the reading of it as it becomes a story that is cherished, its’ characters immortalized, a treasure that is shared amongst friends, a point of reference for the themes or setting or historical events it portrays, some books are the ones that lead the way when it comes to subsequent reading either introducing you to a series, a genre or an author whose works you had yet to discover.
The point is the gift of a good book is a gift of endless opportunities with no expiration date and I can think of no better gift.
I feel blessed that I became hooked on books early on in my life and have written about this in my article called, In the Company of Books. A self-confessed bibliophile, I love books but I do recognize that reading needs to be nurtured from a young age and reading habits fed with a constant supply of reading material.
The holidays provide the perfect conditions for incubating readers: buying presents + free time (often indoors).
Gifting books to children is much more than a stocking-filling exercise for there is plenty of research to show that reading for pleasure is beneficial to the holistic development of the person and that society wins when we have a community of readers.
The author, Neil Gaiman has spoken of and written passionately about this, namely that reading for pleasure builds empathy which makes the world more compassionate and reduces criminality, improves creativity which increases the capacity for problem-solving and innovation, and empowers so that we can dream of a better life for both ourselves and for others. The young mind is malleable and reading for pleasure massages it in all the right places.
Those who love books will always appreciate the gift of a book as a beautiful and thoughtful sentiment; we are easy to buy for. Those who are young need to be supported as readers; read to them, read with them, read near them, encourage them along. No other gift can reward as spectacularly.
This Christmas keep it simple, give the gift of reading, the gift that lasts a lifetime.
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