I believe that we are a generous people, but we sometimes forget to take advantage of opportunities. One of my most well-received posts on Facebook recommended that people buy teenagers a book to read over the summer. I have no measure of what readers will actually do, but I hope that everyone takes it to heart and wallet.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what book to buy (“I don’t know what he/she likes to read…”) or especially with grandparents, they don’t want to buy the wrong book. I have some comments about that situation:
First, to a large degree, it won’t matter what book is chosen. Second, pick something that you would enjoy reading. Thirdly, avoid large, thick books, unless it’s Harry Potter – “read over the summer” is a euphemism; it’s better they read a short book all the way through than to start a long one and drift away. Fourthly, pick a biography of a good person. Most people, even teenagers, find it satisfying to experience another person’s life. Fifthly, ask the clerk at a book store, especially if you want a certain age or grade level – middle grade, middle school, young reader, young adult, or adult. Sixthly, you can ask them what they like.
My best advice is this: take your sons and daughters to a Barnes and Noble or other bookstore and tell them that you want to buy each of them a book to read over the summer and let them choose. They will learn from your generosity as much as they will learn from the books. By the way, don’t “require” them to read what they choose. If they choose well (choosing well is something they may have to learn) the books will be read.
There are no guarantees that they will read what you buy, but don’t let that keep you from paving the way. You will never lose money on giving books, even if the investment takes a while to show up.
In my elementary school in Texas, some book publisher would send around a pamphlet-sized list of books for sale. We checked the boxes, penciled in the names, added up the total, paid the teacher, and a few weeks later, the school received the books and passed them out. My family didn’t have much money (no family did at the time) so I was cautioned to not pick too many, but I was never denied ordering a book or two. My parents did not coach me on what books to buy; it was expected that I would read whatever I ordered.
I remember the generosity of my parents and I remember how much I loved the books. I chose one book based solely on the image of a spooky house on the cover. Fifty years later, I still remember buying the book. The story wasn’t as good as the image, but I read every word.
The overall point is that you want your kids or grandkids to read, to value books, and to know that it’s okay to spend money for a book. They will also learn that being given a book feels wonderful, which will teach them that giving a book also feels wonderful.
The way to teach generosity is to be generous.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.