Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Why I Give Books at Christmas

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love YouA Bit LostHowl's Moving CastleA Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh. 

I often give books as gifts. I know my way around a bookstore; I read widely and discuss current reads with almost anyone, such that I am also good at selecting books to suit another’s tastes. And yet, when I mentioned ordering a book for a friend this year, my mother was less than enthused.
“A book? Just a book? Can’t you get something nicer?”
“A book is nice, Mum.”
“A book is boring. Fine, get a book, but get something to go with it.”
“I think the book will be fine. It’s unusual, but it suits. There’s a reason I had to order it.” 
Later, in the same conversation, I mentioned that I give books in Christmas charity drives, as opposed to the more commonly gifted toys. Again, I was met with a rather lukewarm response.

It may seem like books are a boring gift; they do not light up, or play music, or shoot water. They are often small, without the grandeur of a large box or lots of wrapping. But a book! A book gives challenge, takes on gender and racial stereotypes, offers insight and hope and opportunities for thought. 

And if you think giving books to a charity drive is boring, or unfair to children in need of toys, consider: a book is a gift I can donate for an older child. Most toys donated are for children up to the age of twelve or so. Gifts for older children are more expensive; most of us can’t afford to donate an Xbox or a bicycle. But a book? A book is something an older child can read and relate to, especially if thoughtfully chosen. It’s a gift that won’t break within hours of opening, and one that can be passed around. It’s something that ensures those kids older than twelve also have something to smile about on Christmas day. 

If you’d like to donate books this Christmas, please consider choosing something in the junior fiction to young adult category. Picture books and titles for younger readers are also immensely useful, but there’s no dearth of gifting for younger children. Books like Ambelin Kwaymullina’s Tribe series, or Sue Lawson’s After, Elsbeth Edgar’s In the Wings and On Orchard Road, or Sue Whiting’s Portraits of Celina are all a marvellous starting point. 

Which books would you choose to give this Christmas?