“Imagination is the source of all human achievement .”
– Sir Ken Robinson
Grandparents are, and have long been, the “original” book fairies. At Book Fairy Pantry Project we receive donated books almost daily that are decades old, and so many of them have inscriptions from Nana and Papa, Grammie and Grampie, and every other form of grandparent name any baby has ever uttered. Grandparents giving books to grandchildren at birth, on birthdays, and at the holidays is a long-standing grandparenting tradition that your grandchildren now need more than ever.
Now that so many young children spend more time on screens than being read to or reading books, some grandparents may feel that giving books to their grandchildren is no longer important and may be looking for other gifts to give. However, before you think any more about giving up your role as book fairy to your grandchildren, I hope you will read on to hear why your book giving is not only “still” important, but maybe even more important than ever before. You may be your grandchild’s primary, even only, source of having their own books.
“Love is the greatest gift that one generation
can leave to another.”
– Richard Garnett
Between the loss of Raising Readers and the strong possibility of a long delay in the statewide launching of Imagination Library, we are looking at a serious book gap for Maine’s youngest children. This will mean there will be no books at birth and at every yearly well-child visit through age five. We need another funder to step up and make sure all babies born in Maine receive books at birth. This would at least continue literacy equity for all babies by making sure babies start their lives with books in their homes. Until that happens, grandparents can help save early literacy by making it their mission to remain, or become, their grandchildren’s own private book fairy.
We can do this! There are beautiful, like-new books for a dollar or two at Goodwill and the Salvation Army Store. I buy their books all the time. And even if you have to mail them, Media Mail is one of the best deals going. I can buy and ship a small box of books for less money than I would spend taking them out for ice cream! Children adore getting books in the mail. Hey, it works for Dolly! Speaking of Dolly, I have been my great grandson’s own private Imagination Library throughout the pandemic by mailing him books every month. Being a book fairy is the most fun job I’ve ever had! You can do it too!
The secret to giving great books lies in their relevance. Tell me what a child loves and I can find them a book they will love. This means learning all you can about their favorite things so you can choose books that are exciting and meaningful to them. While I believe books are the best gifts at every age, birth through five is the most critical time to make sure that parents have lots of books to read to your grandchildren. Kindergarten teachers always tell me that they can tell right away which of their students have been read to and which have not.
Watching stories on a screen can never replace the imagination value of listening to stories. Children use a different part of their brain when they listen to a story than when they watch a story on screen. When they watch a story, the visual is provided, and no use of their imagination is required. “Research shows that children who activate their imaginations through being read to or reading themselves develop higher activity in the left-sided parietal-temporal occipital association cortex — the area of the brain that is responsible for cultivating mental images, and deciphering and comprehending verbal cues. This results in both a stronger imagination and fondness of reading” https://readable.io/blog/the-benefits-of-reading-to-children/ .- Northern Virginia Family Service
Giving and reading books to a child is one of the strongest ways I know to create a connection. During that story time, our worlds intersect and we enter an adventure together. Whether we take our grandchild on a book-shopping date to the thrift store to pick out a book (or two), mail books to them, or read aloud to them over FaceTime or video chat, the message we give when we give books is…books are important to me and so are you!
In this season of giving, I hope that reading this article will inspire you to think about fully embracing the role of book fairy as a part of your grandparenting identity. We have the opportunity to make a positive difference in our grandchildren’s future standard of living and quality of life through the love we give when we give books. Let our legacy be that of love and literacy.
Pam Leo, is a family literacy activist, the author of Connection Parenting, and a new book, Please Read To Me. Her enduring love of children's books, her passion for literacy, and her commitment to empowering parents, are combined in her new role as the founder of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, whose mission is "No Child With No Books," because "Books change children's lives... For good."