My thoughts were tied to the book fair I am running this week. This is a fundraiser for the media center and while I do promote it with the premise of getting books into kids hands, the real reason why I do it is MONEY - yes MONEY. The book fair is every school librarians nightmare, dealing with parents, dealing with crying kids who break your heart, dealing with money (I had a kid today purchase $56 worth of books, only 45 in ones and the rest was in pennies, dimes and nickles!) but the money is our motivating factor. With school budgets getting tighter every year I fear that I will have no money to spend on library books and other materials in the coming years, the money I make from book fair will help me out. This year the money I make will go toward three author visits that I have scheduled - and I am SO excited to be able to offer my students this - I STILL have kids who ask me about our author visits from last year (and even yesterday I had to explain to a 2nd grader why Coleen Salley would not be coming back to our school this year).
So with that in mind, I have started targeting the parents in my school (I am in a fairly middle class school, we do have a reduced/free lunch population that is growing, but for the most part we are in a pretty middle class area) to use the book fair to purchase gifts for the holidays.
But the question I get asked the most is "What do you think Johnny would like, he's in second grade and is an ADVANCED reader?" (ah, aren't they all advanced readers!)
I have learned through the years, not so much from my job, but from my own children that reading material is such a subjective thing and even if Johnny loves to play baseball, baseball fiction books might not get him excited about reading. I find that younger children are easier to buy for than older children. I do ask if they know the last book the child they are buying for read and then I might find similar books. I might ask what the child is interested in and find a non-fiction book about that subject. Very often, I suggest giving a child a favorite book from their childhood. While the recipient might not find it THEIR favorite book, kids to do get a kick out of reading books that their parents or relatives or even teachers enjoyed when we were their age.
I love to tell people to start a book giving tradition. I know some families that have a night of Hanukkah be book night, or they give a new Christmas themed book to a family/child every Christmas (I do this). I am lucky enough to get to meet many authors throughout the year and I always buy a signed book for my nieces, sometimes even including a picture of the author and myself along with the book (I do this for my own children too, but many times at least one of my kids is with me when I meet authors).
Like Jen says in her post, more important that GIVING a child a book is to READ the book to them/with them, even older kids enjoy being read to. So while the hectic pace of the holidays starts to take hold, take a night to read a book with your kids (or a child in your life), that is the real gift of the season.