DEAR READERS: Many of us are spending a lot of time this week scurrying around, looking for the "perfect" gift to bestow on family and friends. And yet, looking back through our own holiday memories, we realize that the best gifts arrive in the form of traditions or objects that we can look at and know exactly where they came from. We invest these simple possessions with meaning and memories.
For the past three years I have advocated for a gift-giving concept that is simple, straightforward, inexpensive, and that reaps boundless and lifelong rewards.
Like all my best ideas, this was stolen (borrowed, really). Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough (author of the books "Truman," "John Adams" and many others) once related in an interview that every Christmas morning during his childhood, he and his siblings awoke to the gift of a wrapped book on their beds, delivered in the night by Santa.
Thus was born "A Book on Every Bed." I have teamed with The Family Reading Partnership (familyreading.org) in my hometown of Ithaca, N.Y. With its help, this simple concept has spread through libraries, schools, churches and bookstores, across this country and beyond.
Here's how it works: You take a book (it can be a new book or a favorite from your own childhood). You wrap it. On Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you celebrate), you leave the book in a place where Santa is likely to find it. When I communicated with David McCullough about borrowing his idea, he was very clear: Santa handles the delivery and places the book on a child's bed.
In the morning, the children in your household will awaken to a gift that will far outlast any toy: literacy.
I know this for sure: No matter who you are or what you do, reading will unlock untold opportunities, mysteries and passions. When you have a book and the ability to tell, read and share stories, you gain access to the universe of others' imaginations. And avid readers know that if you have a book, you are never alone.
We have probably exceeded our original goal for one million children to wake up on Christmas morning to a wrapped book, and so this year's appeal will be for parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to continue to spread this concept in their families and communities.
To view a video of me reading a book with my favorite young reader and to share your stories and photos, check my Facebook page: facebook.com/Adickinsondaily.
DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I recently attended a Christmas party where a 5-year-old was asking adults if they believed in Santa.
Everyone around us responded "yes," but my boyfriend responded "no," which made the boy visibly sad (though he did not question further).
I believe that it was not our place to tell someone else's child our true opinions about Santa, but my boyfriend maintains that he did not want to lie to the boy because he was angry at his parents when he found out they had lied to him about Santa.
What is the proper etiquette in this situation? — Confused Elf
DEAR CONFUSED: It's always a good idea to try to leave a 5-year-old pretty much as you found him. Unless the child has a close relationship with you, it is not your job to disabuse, confuse or make him sad.
On the other hand, this is a surprising question from a 5-year-old. The very question supposes that there is such a thing as "believing" (or not believing) in Santa.
The socially smooth way to handle such a straightforward question of belief or faith is to understand at the outset that the question itself contains a trap. And so one says, "Hmmm. Good question. What do you think?"
DEAR AMY: I'm sad because I've just learned my son won't make it home for the holidays because his military leave has been postponed. I just wanted to extend a special wish for a peaceful and happy holiday to all our troops. — Military Mom
DEAR MOM: I share your special wish. Thank you.
(Send questions via e-mail to askamytribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)