I heard this idea from a friend a couple of years ago and latched onto it immediately:
Leave a gift-wrapped book at the end of your child’s bed to find on Christmas morning.
It gives them something to open immediately and (ideally) gives them something to do while they wait for the rest of the family to wake up and be ready to open more presents.
(In my family growing up, we weren’t allowed to leave our bedrooms on Christmas morning until my parents came and got us. My sister and I would sneak into each other’s room as soon as one of us woke up – usually around 3-4am – and then wait in giggy, anxious glee until we finally – FINALLY – got the okay to come see what was under the tree. I’m not so sure this is how things will go for my kids as they get older, but it’s still how I picture Christmas mornings.)
As a teacher and avid reader, I have hundreds of books in our house – picture books, early readers, novels, biographies, science and history books – and a random assortment of text books I picked up at garage sales over the years. No matter how many are on the shelf, there are certain books that will always stand out, that are the favorites. The special books.
There are so many books that I loved as a kid that I have been greatly looking forward to sharing with my own kids:
- Socks by Beverly Cleary, and her entire Ramona series
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
- The Anastasia series by Lois Lowry
- The Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka (I discovered these as a teacher, but love them all)
- On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
And a few that are maybe a little less well known:
- Kid Power by Susan Beth Pfeffer
- The Secret Window by Betty Ren Wright
- The Little Gymnast by Sheila Haigh
- and my all-time favorite, for reasons I’ve never really been able to explain, Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler
With so many books around, and so many I want my kids to cherish too, the Christmas morning book idea seemed like a perfect way to share some favorites with my kids.
So each year, starting when they were 2 and 4, I’ve chosen a book for each of them that represented or somehow connected with something special about them for that year. When my son was 2, he was completely obsessed with Thomas the Train, so he got a book of Thomas stories. This year, my kindergartener, whose reading skills are blossoming, will be getting a set of Level 1 readers about her favorite Disney princesses, also to commemorate our trip to Disneyland this last fall.
Each year, I write a message to the child in the cover, something sappy about how much they each mean to me and about how much they’ve grown and changed over the past year, and – hopefully – something that will be special to them for years to come.
This plan backfired a bit last year. I bought my daughter a book about Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer because she loved the song and had been singing it constantly. The book that I picked out played the song if you pushed a button on the cover.
However, in June I was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of that song. I ran into her room – where she was still asleep – and spent several minutes in the dark trying frantically to find the book before the noise of it woke her up. I found it buried under a pile of other books – no idea how the music started. After a couple more times when it went off by itself – and always in the middle of the night – I got rid of it. That book had gone from being sweet and sentimental to downright creepy.
I’m thinking this year that I should get a new book for myself as well. That would only be fair, right?
Just writing this is making me even more excited to get some good books in their hands. I think I’ll break out another old favorite tonight, The Best Christmas Pagaent Ever, by Barbara Robinson, for our bedtime reading together. I can’t wait!