Dear Readers: Every year at Christmastime, I ask readers to put “A Book on Every Bed.” I do so in memory of my mother, Jane, whose weekly trips to our town’s library always yielded armloads of books. In our household, we went without some things that other families had, but we always had books in abundance.
The idea to put books on beds at Christmastime originally came from historian David McCullough, who recounted the Christmas mornings of his youth, when the very first thing he woke up to was a wrapped book at the base of his bed, left there by Santa.
The most important part is what happens next: Family members reading together.
Working with my local literacy partner Children’s Reading Connection (childrensreadingconnection.org), this campaign has grown to include schools, libraries and booksellers, who have donated scores of books to families that might not have access to them.
This year, I am thrilled that author Jacqueline Woodson (jacquelinewoodson.com) agreed to share a very personal literacy story. Ms. Woodson is the winner of, well — all of the awards for her genre-spanning work, including the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott, as well as a MacArthur “Genius” grant (2020). Her books, “Brown Girl Dreaming” and “The Day You Begin” are both very important to the children in my life.
A Pile of Books
“The other night, a friend was describing her love for books. She said that love began when she was a child and her dad would bring a pile of books to read to her before she went to sleep.
As I listened, I imagined what would it have been like to have 'a pile of books' and someone who had the time at the end of the day to read them to me. Or better, to be able to read them to myself.
The books I had as a child were borrowed from the library or the worn books that had moved through many hands before landing, often in states of disrepair, in my own hands.
Books were both a necessity and a luxury in my childhood.
My mother wanted us to read constantly but didn't have the money to buy us 'piles of books'.
To have a brand-new book to open at night – it's crisp unbroken binding, the scent of its pages, the soft rush of air and excitement that comes with turning them – this is my dream for every child.
A pile of books begins with one. And like a child, it grows.”
To support independent bookstores, which have had to pivot during the pandemic (like all of us), I’m presenting some recently published books in various categories, selected by some of my favorite booksellers.
From Jill Yoemans, owner of White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pa. — three recommendations for Early Readers:
“Mia Mayhem is a Superhero!,” by Kara West and Leeza Hernandez.
“I’m On It! (Elephant and Piggie Like Reading!),” by Andrea Tsurumi and Mo Willems.
“Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea” (a Narwhal and Jelly Book), by Ben Clanton.
From Lisa Swayze, general manager of Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY (Buffalostreetbooks.com):
“The Young Adult category has some of the most diverse, exciting, and revolutionary writing happening today. Buffalo Street Books' #1 pick this year is ‘This Poison Heart,’ by Kalynn Bayron. Once you're entangled in this heart-stopping story, you won't be able to put the book down.
“We also recommend: ‘The Firekeeper's Daughter,’ by Angeline Boulley, ‘We Are Not Broken,’ by George M. Johnson, and ‘We Are Inevitable,’ by Gayle Forman.”
From the bookselling staff of Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., Adult non-fiction (politics-prose.com):
“Empire of Pain,” by Patrick Radden Keefe: A riveting account of the Sackler pharmaceutical dynasty. Over decades they engaged in aggressive marketing of drugs, culminating in the promotion of Oxycontin, which fostered the opioid crisis.
“Crying in H Mart,” by Michelle Zauner: In moving prose, the singer paints a vivid picture of the pain she endured growing up as the biracial daughter of a Korean mother and an American father.
“All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake” by Tiya Miles: Winner of the National Book Award, this historian pieces together the lost lives of a Black American family — through the contents of a flour sack from the 1840s. The story of the sack carries "all the drama and pathos of ancient tapestries depicting the deeds of queens."
[You can share your own literacy stories on my Facebook page @AdickinsonDaily, or through Instagram: @booksonbeds.]
©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.