Dear Readers: This is a special day for me, because this is the day I take a break from hosting your questions to advocate for a cause that is near and dear to me: literacy.
In my long career, I have volunteered in classrooms, libraries and prisons, reading with others and sharing the work of writers important in my own life. I do so in honor of my late mother, Jane, who passed along to me her own love of reading and writing. This is a legacy I continue to happily share.
What I learned from my mother's life lesson is that when you have a book, you are never alone. Reading unlocks worlds of imagination and creativity. Literacy imparts real power, and this is especially important for people who feel powerless.
The magic of literacy can happen at any time, but it is especially important in childhood. Reading helps a young child's brain develop and mature. Reading for pleasure is a lifelong gift of entertainment and learning.
Today, in memory of my mother on her birthday, I share a simple idea to give children the gift my mother gave to me, by putting "a book on every bed."
Celebrate the giving season
On Christmas morning (or whatever holiday you celebrate), make sure that each child in your household wakes up to a wrapped book at the foot of their bed. The gift could be a new book or one of your old favorites.
After the child unwraps the book, the most important aspect of this gift is unveiled, when the parent sits and shares it with the child. More than a third of families in the U.S. do not regularly share books with their young children. Starting a celebration morning by reading together will forge an unforgettable intimacy for both child and parent.
This year I am partnering with Children's Reading Connection, a national early literacy initiative. Their advocacy focuses on the importance of helping families share books with babies and children.
This is an important prescription for health and success in growing brains — and sharing a book is a wonderful way for families to connect. And I can think of no nicer way to kick off Christmas morning than by snuggling up with a book.
Writers give back
This year, actor and literacy advocate LeVar Burton is endorsing the "book on every bed" tradition. As the producer and long-running host of the PBS show "Reading Rainbow," Burton has been the conduit between generations of children and lifelong literacy.
"Literacy is the birthright of every human being, even in this digital age," Burton told me. "I don't care if it is in a traditional bound book or on a tablet device. ... I simply want our children to read!" ("Reading Rainbow" is now available as a mobile app.)
Writer and illustrator Peter Reynolds says, "Picture books are wisdom dipped in art and words." His book "Happy Dreamer" (2017, Orchard Books), is an ideal story for parents to share with their dreamy young children. Key message? "You are good at being you!"
Share in your own way
Parents and caregivers can put a book on every bed in their own households; you can also help spread the cause of literacy by generously sharing this idea in your own community. For families that celebrate through service projects, I suggest adopting a local classroom or day care center and providing a book for each child to unwrap on Christmas morning.
To learn more, and to watch a video of me demonstrating this concept, go to childrensreadingconnection.org.
Send Ask Amy questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.