Reading Tips

How To Make Books More Meaningful In 20 Seconds

April 6, 2021
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I was recently at my mom’s house, as we worked together to sort through her children’s book collection pulling out books that belonged to each of us. Some books were sorted into piles based purely on memory, but the vast majority were sorted as we opened the front cover and saw whose name was inscribed inside. Compiling my stack and reading the sweet inscriptions written by (primarily) my grandmothers and mother, brought back a host of warm fuzzy memories, both of the family and friends who had gifted me the books as well as of snuggling up and reading the stories themselves throughout my childhood.

Book Inscriptions
Book Inscriptions

Would being handed a pile of my childhood books have elicited many of the same memories? Of reading the stories together with my family, definitely! But I would have missed out on being reminded of the thoughtful gift givers who had begun shaping my life long before my (notoriously terrible) memory can recall.

In the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “It’s a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.” And I might add, an even better thing to be able to take them with you as you grow and mature as a tether to your childhood and the people who are rooting for you.

My mom did a fantastic job of noting books that belonged to each of us children, and until recently I’ve been notoriously bad at it, quite frankly having forgotten how special it is. But armed with my own warm fuzzy memories and a determination to create a library of books that my own children (current and future) can take with them as a tether to our own sacred reading time and special friends, I’m ready to begin again.

Create a Habit of Inscribing Books

Want to join me? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • While it would be nice if anyone who ever gave you a book inscribed it themselves with touching sentiments, it’s perhaps not realistic. If your child is gifted a book, and the gift giver is present, grab a pen and ask them to inscribe it. It can be as simple as To: ___, From: ___, and the date or occasion. (It’s so fun to see loved ones handwriting!) If they aren’t present, inscribe it yourself with the relevant details!
  • Periodically (say, once a quarter) assess if there is a book that is special to your child at this particular stage? (e.g. a book you’ve read every night for bed, the one they ALWAYS choose, took with them to the hospital, etc.) Make a note of it in on the front cover
  • When you purchase a book for a child, inscribe it.

Elements of An Inscription

What should you include in an inscription? There are a few potential elements—include what feels natural without overthinking it!

  1. The child’s name (so that when you sort through books later for them to take later on, you know which books are who’s!)
  2. The date the book was acquired
  3. The occasion the book was acquired for (birthday, Christmas, new sibling, start of kindergarten, etc.)
  4. The giver
  5. A personal note

You can write the inscription directly into the book, or write it on a book plate. I remembering loving having my own little box of book plates for my books, and it’s also a great way for grandparents and others who live far away to send their inscriptions (in their own handwriting) to be included if the books are coming separately (e.g. in a Bookroo subscription)!

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Need some book plates? We’ve designed some for you, that you can print off either on 3 ⅓” x 4” labels (self-adhesive!) (we're using Avery ones here!) or on plain paper and glue in with a gluestick!

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