A Book a Day...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My son is "graduating" from elementary school on Monday. I'm not sure when all this growing up occurred, and I am freaking out a bit. Any tried and true ways of stunting your kid's growth? I want him to be ten years old for ever and ever and ever and ever. This is naturally a bittersweet time for all of us. He's leaving the confines of the oh-so-safe and comfortable elementary school we have grown to love, and is entering the big bad world (which is actually a 22-student charter middle school). Anyway, he has had the same amazing teacher for three of his six years of elementary school. She taught him in 3rd grade, then moved up to the 5/6 team (his school does split grades), so he has had her again for the last two years. Confused? All this is irrelevant, really. The point is, he had this great person in his daily life for a long time, which seems rare in today's school systems. Now that it is time to say goodbye, I wanted to leave her with something lasting and tangible. So when I went in to "teacher's gift" mode, this was my main theme. I wanted her to be touched, but to also leave a bit of Jared behind. Unfortunately, I don't think she wants his attitude.

A little about us, since we are fairly new friends. We are bookworms. My son has always read far beyond grade level, and I have something rare and amazing--a husband who is always knee-deep in a good book. Granted, it's probably being read off a Kindle or iPad, but it is a book none the less. The last several years of being a student have left me with little time to read any fictional material. Still, my bookshelf is full of exciting new treasures just waiting to be explored upon graduation. From grad school. Oof, it is going to be a while.

Bookshelves in our house are very reflective of who we are: eclectic, messy, distracted, and fun-loving. I've brought some examples (there are more, believe me):

This one is in the corner of our living room. In addition to books, it has chachkies from our various travels, my husband's first stuffed animal, games, and jars filled with our bouncy ball and marble collections. There is even an original record of the Gnome Mobile soundtrack I found at a garage sale 15 years ago. We don't own a record player, nor did I when I bought it.

We have the most charming built-in bookshelf in our kitchen, home to our cookbook collection. My husband has been known to count them so he is prepared to say, "We have 102 cookbooks!" I am not sure when exactly that comes up in casual conversation, but to each their own. It, too, has its share of chachkies. My favorite is the ceramic strawberry I found at an antique store when I was 18. I had about $20 to my name but I didn't care. Half that went to the strawberry because I had to have it. I would say I have gotten my $10 worth.

Last, but definitely not least, is my son's crazy bookshelf (there is an overflow shelf in his closet for the books that will no longer fit). He has never met a piece of tree bark, a rubber band, or a rock he didn't love. They all land here. That giraffe on the top shelf? He dug it out of the sandbox in the backyard when we first moved here. Although it makes me nuts sometimes, this bookshelf is really, truly a piece of art and a reflection of his creative little soul. I love him like crazy.

Time to tie these two things together and get to the point. I have one! I really try to give gifts that reflect who we are, meanwhile providing lasting memories for the person receiving them. A few years ago I had the idea of gifting our niece with our favorite children's books every Christmas. It is so fun! We get to think about what we loved to read as little ones, hunt it down, and write on the inside cover about how much we love her and what we liked so much about reading it. Our hope is that she will have them forever and we will one day contribute to her child's love of reading. Needless to say, it has become a yearly tradition.

When it came time to choose a gift for J's teacher, I immediately knew it would involve books. The specifics came to me a bit later. I had the idea to clean out all the books on J's bookshelf that a) were in really good condition, b) he had already read, c) he didn't want to keep, and d) were age appropriate for 5th and 6th graders. He helped me sort through his bookshelf, and I loved seeing him so selflessly contributing to her gift (the kid's a pack rat...it usually takes a LOT to get him to part with anything). We bought a book embosser from Amazon for less than $20 and left his mark in each of them. I picked up a cute tote at Target (on clearance!) to gift them in and vuala! we had something that met all of our requirements. Plus, he will have his own section in her classroom library forever. J and I read the Charlie Bone series together throughout his elementary school years, so they hold some very special memories for us...snuggling together, learning to read, and a bedtime ritual that lasted for years and years. Although we had plenty to donate already, we bought the entire Charlie Bone set to give to her as well. It was a splurge, but it meant a lot to us.

This is how it turned out:


This is such a personal, thoughtful way to show someone you care. I love that we were upcycling my son's old books so that they may find new life in the hands of other children. This does not have to cost much of anything, so it works with every budget. Already have a tote or basket in good condition? Use that instead of buying one! Don't have the time or money to spring for an embosser? Write a little something in each book! A quote, a simple to/from...whatever! It will be meaningful no matter how you go about it. Get your friends and family in on it! Everyone has books lying around that they would be willing to part with for a good cause.

Tell me about your favorite personalized gift ideas! I love ideas as much as books!

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