When I was a child, I loved Christmas. What kid doesn’t? The magic, the twinkling lights, candy canes, and, of course, presents under the tree. I remember a handful of gifts that I treasured. One gift was my Jenny doll. She had dark hair and fair skin like me. She wore a yellow dress with a white bonnet, and I loved her dearly. Another year I got two Cabbage Patch dolls. One was handmade by my mom, the other a “real” Cabbage Patch preemie, safely purchased by my mom after waiting hours in a hostile line and risking being trampled when the herd of desperate parents were released to rush the display. I’m sure there were also Barbie dolls, Star Wars toys, and Hot Wheels that I enjoyed, too. The toys were awesome. Not going to lie.
But so were the books.
I always asked for books. It didn’t matter the subject, I just wanted a book in my hands all the time. Once I became a parent, creating excitement about reading was a top priority. During the holidays, we read tales out of short story collections. Some of my girls’ favorites were The Matchstick Girl, The Snow Queen, and The Night Before Christmas. They also liked a story about a little doll who lives in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. The frozen peas section, to be exact. Not quite sure about that one, but they loved it! The rest of the year we read whatever we could get our hands on. We spent a lot of time and money at the library. Yes, I know the library is supposed to be free, but I’ve never been good at returning my items on time. I used to joke with the library staff that the next branch should be named after me. It’s only fair, I’d insist, since all my late fees could finance the construction.
Why am I telling you this? Well, as much as I love to read, and as much as I worked to instill the love of reading in my children, I sometimes think that we lose sight of how much of a gift reading truly is. It doesn’t matter if you’re 40-years-old or five, reading is a way to lose ourselves in another world. It’s the opportunity to walk in another person’s shoes; to develop empathy and compassion. It’s a way to reach across race, economic status, religious differences, and to touch people who aren’t like us.
As we move into the holiday season, I want to encourage you to give the gift of reading. This simple gift can uplift spirits and create a temporary escape. It can encourage a life-long love of learning and a desire uproot from one’s small space in the world.
Readers are learners.
Readers are travelers.
Readers are curious.
There’s a reader in all of us. Children, parents, senior citizens . . . All of us benefit from reading and here’s how you can help!
Donate to a Local Lending Library
Do you have gently used books laying around the house that you don’t want to store anymore? Many communities have “take a book, leave a book” depots. You can find them outside of grocery stores, at schools, and neighborhood shops. Ask around and see your neighbors know of one of these hidden treasures.
Volunteer to Read to Children at a Homeless Shelter
Children who are experiencing homelessness need a way to escape their current reality. They need a chance to envision a brighter future and use their imagination. Many children without permanent housing don’t have access to books. Some may not even get to attend school regularly. Volunteering to read at a homeless shelter is an act of kindness that can make a huge difference in these children’s lives. All it takes is one short story for a homeless child to believe in his or herself.
Read at an Assisted Living Center
Children aren’t the only people who benefit from a good story. From enhancing sleep to reducing stress and improving decision-making skills, there are numerous advantages for seniors who read. Unfortunately, many older adults don’t see as well or feel comfortable reading alone. However, they do enjoy being read to and welcome the company. You might even find that the stories they have to tell are quite entertaining, too!
Purchase Books for Teens in School Districts with Limited Funding
Are there school districts in or around your community that lack the funds to stock a library? When schools request book donations, they usually get a lot of children’s books because they’re cute and cheap to buy. While this is great, teen reads in many of these schools is lacking. Consider purchasing or hosting a teen book drive for schools in need of YA material.
Leave Copies of Your Favorite Books Around Town
Over the summer, I left copies of my novella, Missing Girl, at various parks, attractions, and coffee shops when I was traveling. It was so fun to leave a little note and hope that a free book made someone’s day. Of course, you don’t have to be an author to leave a book. Maybe purchase a few copies of your favorite book then leave it around town to be found. I guarantee it will brighten someone’s day.
Before I sign off, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this little article. Reading mattered so much to me growing up. It inspired me to write and to want to change the world. Who knows what it will inspire someone else to do?
As a little thank you, I’d like to give you a small gift. Follow this link and you can download a copy of my latest short story, Roots & Wings. Also, feel free to pass along my gift and share it with someone who loves reading as much as we do!
Happy and joyful reading!
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Piper Punches is an author of fiction and truth, tackling topics on social justice, mindful living, creativity, and the writing life. She is the Amazon bestselling author of The Waiting Room, and the short story, Missing Girl. Her newest book, 60 Days (Missing Girl Series — Book 1) is currently available on Amazon. For a limited time, readers can sign up to get a free copy of Missing Girl here.