Stop sipping your cocoa for a minute and take a good look at the world. Clear the frost off your glasses, maybe get a new prescription (hopefully your insurance plan is not at all tied to the new US health insurance policies). Seriously, put the gingerbread down and take a good, long look.
Consumerism, commercialism, technology blitz campaigns, Xboxes, PlayStations, iPads, iPods, portable game devices, smart phones, apps, whirlygigs, fizzwhistles, downloads, uploads, data plans, gigabytes, plug in, tune out, earbuds, touch screens, and multiplayer disconnect. Children are growing up glued to a screen. They move from handheld device to television screen, to computer monitor, like techno-child ghosts with computer code in their eyes and text messages on their tongues. They carry iPods and Gameboys like old West gunslingers, ready to draw down at the first sign of five free minutes. They can’t ride three miles in the car without plugging in. Their world is a wireless, digital web of e-chatter and virtual achievements.
There are more GameStops than book stores. I have the feeling that more kids have Xbox Live memberships than library cards. Circulars scream “Grand Theft Auto 27! Pre-order and receive a replica 9mm and personalized mug shot. Available at Target.” Commercials peddle virtual warfare and glamorize fantasy battlefields where “rated M for mature” means “rated M for my Mom and Dad have no idea what I’m playing.”
And I’ve no doubt that right now your elves are busy soldering and coding, building electronic bundles of joy and technological distractions to good boys and girls across the world. There will be games and gizmos and gadgets galore under the tree and in stockings, hung by the fireplace with care. And that’s cool. I get it. I enjoy a good video game as much as the next guy. I play the Xbox sometimes, sure. But you know what else…? My house is filled with books. Books everywhere and I read like the words are oxygen and if I don’t breathe them in I will die. I encourage reading with my children and expose them to books. They have library cards. They have books and this Christmas, while they are asking for games and gizmos, they are also asking for books. They WANT to read. They want books. And I want them for them.
But I also want books for all of our children. So this year, when you pack up that sleigh, when you load up those sacks of goodies, bring balance to their lives. Bring the gift of a good book. Help make sure that reading does not become a lost treasure, and that dreams and escape can still be found within the pages of a book and not just on a screen. Help our children maintain their imagination; one that comes from interpreting and envisioning what is behind the words on the page, not what is scripted and delivered via game design and digital interface.
Santa, please bring them books.