February Holidays Galore: Mark Your Calendar for International Book Giving Day

February is shaping up to be a busy month, chock-full of opportunities to expose our children to the world. In addition to bringing in the candy-filled holiday of Valentine's Day, February is the month we celebrate culturally diverse holidays like Chinese New Year (Feb. 10), Mardi Gras/Carnival (Feb. 12), Paczki Day (Feb. 12), and Purim (Feb. 24) to name a few. And, thanks to the 2013 Diversity Calendar from Kid World Citizen, International Book Giving Day (Feb. 14) also has assumed a prominent place on my family's February schedule - and I'm busy looking at ways to celebrate that holiday too.

International Book Giving Day is a volunteer initiative aimed at increasing children's access to, and enthusiasm for, books. To celebrate the holiday, people across the globe are encouraged to give a book to a child on February 14. The organizers behind the holiday invite everyone to do one (or more) of three things in the spirit of the holiday:

  1. Give a new, used or borrowed book to a friend or a family member.
  2. Leave a fun, entertaining book in a waiting room or lobby for a child to read.
  3. Donate a gently used book to a local library, used bookstore, hospital or shelter, or to an organization that distributes used books to children in need internationally (such as Books for Africa).

A Wonderful Combination: Love and Books on February 14
I feel very fortunate that my sons have access to lots of wonderful, enlightening books, which they often receive from family members as gifts, and that they enjoy reading them with me and my husband each and every day. I have seen the power of an enriching tale in taking my son's imaginations to new and distant places and exposing them to new ideas, people and places - which could impact who and what they are as adults. That is what makes it so hard to think of children who may not have access to these same things - to these same treasures.

Books are a universal educational tool that everyone should be able to enjoy - especially the youngest ones on this earth. That is why it seems only fitting that International Book Giving Day should fall on the same day that love is celebrated and felt around the world.

Celebrating International Book Giving Day with My Family
This is going to be the first year that my family celebrates International Book Giving Day - and I can't wait.

To kick off our celebration, I plan to go through my son's books with them and pick out some gently used -but much loved - books to pass on to other children so they can enjoy them too. In Chicago, we're lucky to have Open Books - an amazing social venture that operates a bookstore and promotes literacy in the city and beyond. My sons love to go to Open Books, located at 213 W. Institute Place in Chicago's River North neighborhood, to peruse its stacks and stacks of used children's books in a warm and cozy environment. Whenever we go there, they also find a ton of new (yet gently used) books to take home and enjoy. And, that's why I plan to drop off some of our books for Open Books to distribute and share with others, and use the proceeds of any book sales to fund their literacy programs.

Given that International Book Giving Day conveniently falls on Valentine's Day, I am going to continue to give my sons the gift of a love for books this year - and pass on the heart-shaped candy. I keep a running list of all of the books my sons ask me and my husband for on a regular basis - and I am glad that I can use both holidays as a wonderful excuse to give them their most sought-after books. Of course, I will be sure to slip in a foreign language or multicultural book too as yet another way to help grow their minds and broaden their horizons.

Did you add International Book Giving Day to your February holiday calendar this year? If so, how do you plan to celebrate it? Are there any other local, national or international organizations you plan to support with the donation of new or gently used books? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

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