The book aunt
You know what you’re getting for Chrismakwanzakkuh. You know what your present is for your birthday. You know what I will gift you on your graduation day. All I ask in return (and have yet to receive) are book reports.
I am “the book aunt”.
Sometimes I accent books with something frilly and soft, like a feather boa, or something visual and fun, like a superhero poster, but the main idea is literacy. READING.
I share my favorite pastime with the children of my siblings and friends, to get them hooked at an early age. Yes, I want them to do well in school, to be fluent readers with superior spelling, grammar, and creativity; but I am also gifting them with empathy and escapism.
As the book aunt, I have become familiar with two different scenarios:
Scenario one: “Did you bring me any books?”
This is the voracious reader who I have successfully won over – or who loved to read before I got to them. Last weekend I visited some college friends who have twins, and, like the last time that I saw them, I brought books. This is what they expect from me now, and I like to meet this expectation! Since their mother told me that they are now reading chapter books and like The Magic Tree House series, I know that they have both patience (they read long books!) and imagination (they read books without pictures!). I could have brought titles on their level, that they can read on their own, but I want to cater to my grad-degree holding friends as well, so I brought a series that is fun and funny, that mom and dad would have to read to them – and would fall in love with too – The Mysterious Benedict Society. In this ‘did you bring any books’ scenario I hand over the books and they take them, sit down, and start examining them. If the books are above their level they usually ask to be read to immediately, and if the books I deliver are on level voracious readers get right down to business, especially if the books are graphic novels or the latest in a series such as The Lunar Chronicles, Wings of Fire or The Raven Cycle.
Scenario two: “It’s just books.”
This is the reluctant reader who I am working on – and you know that I love this challenge. I meticulously wrap each book, tie ribbon around the stack, and add bows or place them in a fancy gift bag… and then the child can tell by shape and weight (and prior experience with me) that these gifts are ‘just books’, and pushes the gift bag aside to move on to the next box which they hope has a doll or a car, maybe a movie, something “cool”. Luckily, in this scenario adults are on my side, and my sibling or friend will ask, “But which books are they??”, and insist that they unwrap the gift, and then the adults in the room dutifully ooooh and ahhhh each title as it is revealed. In this ‘it’s just books’ scenario I bring the “coolest” books that I can get my hands on – illustrated or graphic novels, joke or fact books, and then I toss in an atlas, dictionary, or thesaurus – books that are visually stimulating or help with homework. Some of my go-to options are the Minecraft or Pokemon handbooks, Branches titles, any and everything from Scholastic’s Graphix or Discover More offerings, and the Dear Dumb Diary series by Jim Benton (with has two laughs per page, according to my niece). As far as books for school work, I like to gift illustrated math dictionaries, thesauri, and atlases.
At the end of the day, the book aunt is a completest. I like to gift all of the books in a series at the same time or a bunch of books from the same author. Like booktalking, I try to stick to things that I have read so that I can ‘sell’ them authentically if needed. AND I ALWAYS BRING BOOKS, unless you are into crafting… in which case I am the aunt who brings the loom that you asked for when you were eight four years later because I finally caught a sale on Black Friday (true story).
I am passing on my habits, and I don’t want to disappoint by leaving a child hanging in a story or gifting a book that they will never read. The goal is to convert the ‘it’s just books’ niece or nephew into the ‘did you bring me any books?’ reader – how I measure success – and maybe someday I will finally start receiving book reports!
Are you the ‘book aunt’ or the ‘book uncle’?
What are your go-to books for gifting?