International Book Giving Day is a brilliantly simple, worldwide initiative – that every Valentines’ Day, as many people as possible give a book to someone they think will enjoy it. It can be a second-hand book, or a new one – the main thing is that you want to share it with someone, ideally someone who might not get as many opportunities to read really amazing books as you do yourselves. I came across it through the phenomenally energetic Zoe Toft on her Twitter Feed and immediately thought it could be really powerful.
So I downloaded some of the bookplates on the site, had them printed up and handed them out to every child in our school. Our Head Teacher was very enthusiastic and said he expected a huge number of books to come in. Frankly, I had my reservations. Our parents get asked to do a lot of stuff and have busy, stressful lives. I thought we might get a box or two. To encourage support, I gambled on quite a few people giving more than one book, plus my own overstock cupboard, and said that any child bringing in at least one could swap it and take a different book home. I just hoped there’d be a few left over for someone else.
I turned up an hour early for work this morning, ready to tour the classrooms in hope of a few last-minute donations. When I walked in, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The whole library area was covered with beautiful books – people had brought in whole 10-volume sets of Horrid Henry, Rainbow Magic, annuals, beautiful picture books…many with lovely personal messages. There were already a couple of Year 6 volunteers setting everything up. I was humbled – our small school had really delivered.
The afternoon that followed was exhilerating. The children were clearly excited – many looking forward to seeing who chose their own donation as well as finding something for themselves – but also very sensible. We had only one case of tears as two people set their heart on the same book. Most of them, despite being quite young, really grasped that this wasn’t so much about getting as about giving.
Even at the end of the afternoon, as I was boxing up the books left to pass on to other schools through local clergy, children were coming in with more donated books. It was a marvellous example of the way that when we look outwards, we often find that we are blessed and revitalised. And seeing children walking around the school with their heads in their books gave me a real thrill (even if it was a bit of an accident waiting to happen!)
Like everyone else, there are days when things about my job frustrate me. But today, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
- Life-long love affairs begin with a book (stuff.co.nz)
- International book giving day (blogs.abc.net.au)