by Meredith Flory


This column begins my fifth year of writing Raising Readers for Augusta Family Magazine.  Days filled with diapers and board books have morphed into basketball practice, scouting and comic book interests. My family celebrated many personal milestones over the years, both happy and sad: a 10th anniversary trip to Scotland, military relocations, the death of my grandmother, and the introduction of a new family cat to name a few.  I never imagined after leaving the teaching profession to stay at home that freelance writing would afford me so many adventures. Writing this column for you, on my favorite subject of reading, is a highlight each month. As a lover of books, I cherish bookstores, libraries and other places where I can search through stacks of things to read old and new, and a thoughtful book purchase is always an outstanding gift.  So, whatever milestone your little one is celebrating, consider marking their accomplishments through the gift of books.

Potty Training: When toddlers begin to use the potty, a book can be a great way to celebrate and explain what is happening with their body.  My children both received books to go in a little basket in the bathroom to “read” while they were sitting on their potties, and Usborne’s What is Poop lift-the-flap book was a purchase that led to both learning and giggles.  Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi is another classic for the toilet.  Alternatively, you could purchase a storybook with their favorite cartoon characters and matching underwear as a present for moving out of diapers.

Dental Work: The first visit to a dentist can be a little scary, as well as losing a tooth or getting braces.  Several classic picture book series have dentist stories, such as Little Critter Just Going to the Dentist, The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, and Dr. Seuss’s The Tooth Book.  For older children, Smile, by Raina Telgemeirer and available through Scholastic, is a memoir about trials of needing a lot of dental work.  An accompanying diary is available for purchase so kids can record their own experiences.

A Major Move: As a military spouse with children, I know that moving or having a close friend move can be emotionally difficult for everyone. Entering a new school or other activity group can also be emotionally hard. Consider purchasing an age-appropriate non-fiction book about the new city, a nearby national monument, or about the landscape and animals in the area to pique the child’s interest. Fiction stories like Alexander, Who’s Not (I Mean It, Do You Hear Me?) Going to Move by Judith Viorst or A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn are perfect for younger children.  Many chapter books and young adult novels with coming of age stories include moving or entering a new school as part of the conflict.  Choose one of your favorites, along with stationary or a gift card for apps to help them keep in touch with their friends. Author Sara Elizabeth Boehm has several journals for pre-teens and teens to help them work through feelings and tackle suggestions for getting settled.

Graduation or Coming of Age Celebrations: When I graduated from high school, my mother gave me two lovely personalized gifts that I still cherish.  She had purchased a mother-daughter journal that gave her prompts to write about my childhood, things she was proud of me for, and thoughts she wanted me to know about her as I entered womanhood.  She also gave me a binder filled with all the programs she had saved over the years from various productions such as my school musicals, orchestra concerts and church programs.  Even if you do not consider yourself a writer, there’s a variety of prompted journals you can purchase appropriate for different genders, family relations and religious backgrounds.  Use handwritten words to create a cherished book filled with family memories and wise tidbits for a young adult.  Or if you do not feel comfortable writing your own words, ask your local bookstore assistant to help you find an appropriate novel with a character that is celebrating the same event: graduation, quinceanera, driver’s license, going to college, religious ceremony, coming out or other coming of age event.

This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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