My birthday is right after Christmas, so my childhood memories of what I received for Christmas versus what I received for my birthday are a bit blurred. As a result, I don't know which of those two occasions warranted what, to this day, may have been one of the most momentous gifts of my entire life.
I believe I was in second grade. I vividly remember my Aunt Judy passing me an enormous box, opening it, and finding it FULL of books. When I say full, I mean that there were about twenty books in this box.
It was magical.
The books, by the way, weren't your typical children's books. They were classics like Kidnapped, David Copperfield, Robinson Crusoe, and Hound of the Baskervilles. They were illustrated and somewhat abridged, but they were there and they were mine and I could tell that they were GROWN UP books. Books that adults would read. Books that my aunt knew I was ready to dive into.
Even then, I had the sense that I was being handed the keys to something important. I didn't know the terms "canon" or "literary tradition" (I was, you'll remember, eight) but I knew that reading these books would make my world ... bigger.
Aunt Judy, man. She understood me.
It will likely come as no surprise that I am a book-giving Auntie. The little ones in my life are not quite ready for Little Women, but they are ready to know that stories and reading are not only important, but valuable. I want them to know that reading is every bit as entertaining and interesting as watching television or playing a video game; this is not to say that those things don't have a place in their lives, but it is to say that it is my hope that reading -- and reading voluntarily, reading for pleasure -- has an equal place in their daily pursuits.
If you want the children in your life to love to read? Let them see you reading. Give them books. Let's raise the next generation of Book People, shall we? Let's encourage them to explore, imagine, dream, and empathize. It will surely make the world a better place.