By now you’ve probably heard of The Elf on the Shelf – a book and toy combination that has become a Christmas tradition for many families. Each morning when children wake up during the holiday season, their “scout elf” is hiding in a new place in their home to report their behavior back to Santa.
What if you were able to take a week off from creating new places for your elf to hide, and instead use the elf as an opportunity to promote literacy in your home?
In years past, it took so much effort after long days of work, school, dinner and homework to stay awake long enough to move our elf, Freddy, to a new location each night. Add in the pressure of social media, with pictures of people’s elves engaged in all manners of holiday mischief and mayhem, and the task was one I truly dreaded.
Then, one morning during the last week before Christmas, as the guilt was setting in after forgetting to move Freddy yet again, I thought, “What if I didn’t have to move the elf at all this week?” I had seen pictures of elves with duct-taped legs and candy cane crutches who were unable to move, due to their injuries, and it started me thinking about how I could incorporate a new tradition that was both enjoyable and productive, and still hold on to a ritual that my boys held dear.
The teacher in me is always searching for creative ways to foster the love of reading blossoming in my children, so I enlisted Freddy’s help in my latest endeavor. I created a library card for Freddy and made a big production of the fact that he was finally old enough to get his elf library card.
I had taken out seven children’s book from the library, and each day during the week before Christmas, Freddy would be on our bookshelf with one of the library books. On the cover of the book I added a reusable post-it note that read, “I loved this book. I think you will too. Please read. Fondly, Freddy.” The boys were thrilled to see what book would be waiting for them each morning. And it was wonderful to begin our morning, or end our evening, with a shared story.
My boys are now nearing the ages when Freddy will no longer hold the magic that he does now. During this brief window of childhood, I will cherish these daily holiday read-alouds. And I am grateful for the joy that children’s stories have brought to our home.
Maureen Manning is the Director of Family and Community Engagement in Wareham, MA and a Mass Literacy Champion.