I love Halloween. It’s honestly my favorite holiday. Nothing lights up my life like getting old Jack out of the decoration bin and plugging him in that first night of October (Jack was our one Halloween decoration in my house when I was a kid, and I loved him then and still do.)
I also love candy. But I try to eat it in moderation, and I gotta admit, that’s hard for me, and my kids, when they bring home sacks of it from trick or treating. So, a few years ago, I tried to help rectify (or at least not contribute to) the candy situation by giving out little toys. Kids were…not impressed.
Then last year, fresh off the release of my debut picture book, I thought, why not give out books? I’d seen Book Fairy costumes on social media, so I put one together myself and visited a local used book fair and Goodwill to gather picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels (plus a handful of board books for any babies who might be along for the fun).
It’s a small town and word got out. Some kids were a little surprised they could really have a book (Any book? For free?), and I heard a few kids calling down the street to their friends, “She has books!” I gave out almost all the chapter books and novels, so this Halloween I got a lot more of those (I still almost ran out), and added a few more picture books.
Apparently, it only takes two years to establish a “tradition.” One dad brought his little girl from another part of town because they had come last year” to get a book and she couldn’t stop asking if she could “see the Book Fairy again.” One group of kids ran up excitedly looking for a Babysitter’s Club (which they found last year, and yes, I had some). I only had three kids (out of a couple hundred) who didn’t take a book, and one of those didn’t because he said he had too many and his mom was making him give some away (I feel your pain!).
I’ve always had fun on Halloween, always dressed up with my kids, and we have a great time in our neighborhood, which tends to go all out (one neighbor even created their own haunted house in a tent on the lawn). But, I’ve never considered Halloween to be a holiday that inspires me or gives me hope for the future, until I started giving out books.
The way these kids gather excitedly on my front stoop, flipping through all the boxes, pulling out something they love, holding it up to their friends, running back to their parents to show it off (the parents are totally on board with the book thing, as you can imagine). Wow! It just warms my sometimes frosty little heart. Plus, it really reinforces the idea, which smart teachers already know, that if you let a kid choose their reading material, they’ll be much more enthusiastic about reading. A wide selection of books, plus total freedom to choose, equals very happy kids and teens.
I remember the teen girls who came late to the party, with just a few minutes left for trick-or-treating. There were mostly picture books left, and one said, “Well, I guess I can’t take a picture book, can I?” “Of course!” I said. There are no age limits. The Book Fairy does not judge😊 She was so excited to get that picture book and already making plans to read it to her little sister.
It’s almost a week later, and I’m still feeling the glow from the night. A friend said, “You know you’re going to be stuck doing this forever now, since kids will expect it.” I can think of a lot worse problems to have. Yesterday, the remaining books went into the attic, along with my fairy wings, until next year when the tradition continues.