Habits of MindTechnology

Winter Dreams

By December 14, 2014 October 24th, 2018 5 Comments

When I was little, I looked forward to the winter holidays because that was when I would receive the year’s award winning picture books wrapped in shiny paper. On the title page of each, my mother wrote the date and a simple, loving wish for me in her unique handwriting.

What she wished for me on the title pages changed as I grew older, but the sentiment was much the same: she hoped I would always love books and turn to them for inspiration and comfort as I grew. Whether giving me Tasha Tudor’s most recent masterpiece (my favorite is still the nostalgic A Time To Keep) or Maurice Sendak’s latest (I never quite recovered from the strangely terrifying Outside, Over There), my mother was ensuring that I would associate celebrations and vacations with reading.

Given how I feel about books today, it’s no surprise that I’ve done the same for my own children. Today as I wrapped books from this year’s top lists for my own girls – Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun for my older daughter and Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit for my younger one – I wrote simple notes to them on the title pages. Notes about how much I love them, and why I think they’ll like these books, and unspoken but certain encouragement to read.

I was thinking about this when I read Bruce Feiler’s article in today’s New York Times, “So, How Do You Wrap an E-Book?”

Good question. He asked several authors for their view, many of whom embrace the notion that “reading is reading.” I largely agree. Still, I like Jacqueline Woodson’s response. She’s the author of Brown Girl, Dreaming, the 2014 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature. In response to Feiler, Woodson says that holding a book, “smelling the pages and having that tactile experience,” is like being in a kind of reverie.

Maybe the solution to this digital-age conundrum is to wrap our gifts of reading to our children, in whatever form we give them, in paper with handwritten notes attached. That way, there can be no confusion about what we are really gifting them – ideas, escape, and dreams.



Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School.


  • Stacey says:

    Hi Jessica! I just found you through Lindsey’s latest, Things I Love. So glad that you are blogging and so happy to read your words. The books you have your girls are two of my favorites! And I haven’t read the NYT article yet but will. It really is such a conundrum isn’t it? I love and hate the idea of e-books in equal measure… I haven’t read all the way back here yet so you have probably told us but where are you teaching and what? I saw on your What I’m Reading page that you are teaching Dystopian Literature- what could be more fun than that?!

    • jessflaxman@gmail.com says:

      Hi Stacey! I’m excited you came to my blog; I’ve been reading yours for a while now and your words were part of what pushed me into starting this blog in the first place! I have been studying digital citizenship in schools for about a year now and “leaning in” to my discomfort with these networked public spaces — you and Lindsey both showed me that this is a good and important space for us to participate in. My daughter just read Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar and said it was quite good — have you read it? I believe it alludes to Plath’s The Bell Jar.

  • Allen says:

    This article must be a wonderful present to the author’s mother. What a tribute!

  • Nina says:

    I love how Lindsey described your friendship and I’m here to “check you out.” I love giving books as gifts and you made a good point about giving the eversion . . . can still wrap something, even a note, and it’s still a beautiful gift–the gift of escape and words.