From Halloween to Christmas

Yesterday was Halloween, and I’m thinking Christmas – not typical of me. I normally relish the gratitude of Thanksgiving before delving into the merriment of Christmas but something special is afoot. The Friends of University Libraries, of which I am a member, along with several businesses and organizations in Hattiesburg and the Pine Belt have launched the third annual Give a Child a New Book project. Distribution will come through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

As we began planning for this year’s drive, I remembered something that happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, of which I am also a member, chose me because of my Hattiesburg address to send 1,558 books to be dispersed to schools affected by the storm. With the help of my Delta Kappa Gamma sisters, we distributed them to appreciative librarians and children in twenty-five schools. One librarian was in a low income area school where people struggled to hang on even before the hurricane. She fought back grateful tears as she told us that children in her school thought they owned a “lot of books” if they had three or four.

I compared that image to the one of a new grandson who needed his wood-working grandpa to build bookcases before he was a year old. (Did I also mention that his first word was “book”?) It’s what I would wish for every child. I can’t quite do that, but I love the idea of a giving a child a book of his/her own for Christmas that doesn’t have to be returned anywhere, that can be read over and over.

If you are in the Pine Belt area, some of the drop-off places are Main Street Books and Click Boutique downtown, St. Thomas Catholic and University Baptist churches in mid-town, The First Bank and Enterprise Rent-a-Car in West Hattiesburg, and the School of Nursing or Cook Library on the University of Southern Mississippi campus. For more locations check on Facebook. “Like” the page to follow the news.

If you are stuck for a good book selection, think about a book you loved as a child, a book you loved to read to a child, a book that has won awards (Kids watch for books with a sticker on the front.), a book I’ve blogged about, or one you picked out at Main Street Books where you can efficiently purchase and drop off at the same place!

If you are not in the area, the idea is still good. Consider starting a group of your own or add a new children’s book into the mix of the way you were already planning to give back at Christmas. (You were planning to give back, weren’t you?)

In December, as you finish celebrating Christmas in your own home, take a minute to relax and picture the child who is reading the book you selected. I’m thinking it will add an extra merry to your Christmas.