Books · Courage · Generosity · Kindness · Optimism · Reading · Winter · Writing

Challenge 3 – to anonymously gift a book to a stranger

Your challenge this week: to gift a book and share a little of your literary wealth. Write an anonymous note in the front of a book and leave it somewhere for a stranger to pick up and read.

This challenge encourages the following values:  Kindness, Courage, Generosity, Optimism

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What you need to complete your challenge this week:

    • To choose a book that you have read and enjoyed
    • 10 minutes to sit and think about the message you want to write in your book
    • Somewhere safe to leave your book (where you won’t get pulled up for littering but I’ll talk more about this later).

If all else fails…

Drop some books into your local charity shop and just write a short note, for example ‘I loved this book, I hope you do too – enjoy’ inside the front cover. It’s not a free donation as such but it is still a donation personalised with your kind anonymous message and will raise money for charity too so win win.

Food for thought for the grown-ups:

IMAG4815Reading books reduces stress, relieves anxiety and increases both memory and vocabulary. It increases our emotional intelligence, it encourages us to consider other people’s perspectives and motivations, which, in turn, steers us to think openly and compare our ideas and beliefs with characters in a story. Reading stimulates the brain, keeps it active in ways that TV and screen reading does not. This type of stimulation is even thought to delay the onset of degenerative conditions like dementia, so basically, what I am saying here is that reading is hugely beneficial for our health and well-being. Reading a book, being a generally solitary activity, is beneficial in its ability to totally absorb your attention. In this busy world we live in it is important to prioritise our self-care and, as an accessible activity to most, reading is one of the simplest (and cheapest) forms of self-care that we can enjoy. Who wouldn’t benefit from engaging in a calming yet powerful, pleasurable yet informative few hours with a good book? This challenge is inviting you to choose one of your favourites to give away to a complete stranger in the hope that they too can get as much enjoyment from it as you did. This challenge requires a great deal of faith and optimism that your book will (a) get picked up, (b) be read, (c) maybe even passed on.

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There is one tiny little potential issue with this challenge and that is the possible littering accusation! To combat this I will give you these little tips for safer places to leave your book. My first suggestion is a coffee shop, preferably a little independent one obviously, and let the proprietor know what you are doing, tell them you would like to leave a book for others to enjoy, no owner has ever turned me down yet. My second suggestion is a doctors surgery or similar waiting room where you tend to find books and magazines anyway, just pop it on the pile with the rest, these places tend to appreciate donations so I’m sure you won’t upset anyone. Other places where you can pretty much guarantee someone will pick up and enjoy your book is on a bus or a train. My son and I dropped a bag load of books around our City and were subtle and careful making sure that the books would definitely be found and picked up and not result in becoming saturated in rain, becoming rubbish or leading to a littering fine! You want someone to enjoy your book so make sure it’s found – workplace break rooms are good too!

And for the children:

The subject of children and reading amongst parents can be a sensitive, competitive and downright traumatic subject and I personally have experience of both a natural reader and an avoider of all books. One of my children will resist, distract and use any other tactic to avoid reading, he just purely and simply doesn’t want to. This is very very common, some children just don’t like reading but forcing children to read is just not an option as it may well put them off further, so my solution? I read to him or we take it in turns reading a page each, either way, he finds it more manageable and enjoyable and we’ll continue like this until his interest improves. My other child eats books up, bedtime is his favourite reading time and he can’t get enough of them so I have to restrict our reading together to two books per evening! Safe to say like every other parent I know I have shelves groaning with books, old, new and secondhand, puzzles, flash cards, etc because there is no doubt that learning to read well can improve a child’s life chances.

This is a lovely challenge for your children especially if they are old enough to be able to write a little message in their chosen book. Ask them to find a book that they would like to give away to another child that they won’t know or even meet – it’s a strange concept for most children as there will be no obvious gratitude for their good deed. Ask them how it makes them feel to know they are giving a secret gift? Does it make them feel happy for the child who will find the book? Ask them to imagine how they might feel if they found it. Talk about how giving a book is a kind thing to do,  especially as there are children who aren’t lucky enough to have lots of books. Ask them to think of a nice message to write inside, help them to write it then discuss where they might like to leave it. Maybe a playgroup, maybe a play centre?

So go for it, choose your book (or books), think of a meaningful message and decide where you are going to leave it. Enjoy the feeling that comes from sharing a good book and think of the wealth of benefits you are passing on to another person, not to mention giving the gift of a good story.  It doesn’t matter how old your children are let them choose a book to give away to, let them think of a message and let them reap the feel-good rewards.

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