This is not the post I was going to write. I was planning to write about the scandalous announcement by St John's School in Epping that it is to throw away all the non-fiction books in its library and encourage the children to use the web instead. Children don't need books...
But instead I will share something far more cheerful and inspiring and that proves that St John's School is so very wrong.
I know a young person who is expecting a baby. She is 17. (Please leave your preconceptions by the door.) Apparently, these days British mothers - at least those who grew up to the soundtrack of Friends - have adopted the American practice of having a baby shower. This involves all the friends and perhaps relatives of the mother (and father? I don't know) coming to a party and giving gifts for the embryo in anticipation of its imminent babyhood. Call me cynical, but this strikes me - like wedding lists - as a particularly blatant way of eliciting presents from people who might otherwise have bought nothing, or something cheaper (or more personal) than the items on the list.
When I made this grouchy-old-English-person view clear to the young person she told me that she was going to ask her friends NOT to buy baby clothes or toys or any of the other usual paraphernalia.
Instead, she plans to ask each guest to a bring a book so that she can start a library for her baby. She would like them to bring either a book they enjoyed as a child, or that they have seen since and think looks good. It doesn't have to be a new book, either in terms of publication date or physical object. It can come from a secondhand shop, or their own shelves, or can be bought for 1p from an Amazon reseller. Each person will inscribe the book. She looks forward, she says, not only to starting a library for her child but to what she will learn about each of her friends from their choices.
I asked her if she minded me sharing this story on ABBA and she said she didn't. Perhaps it will inspire other young proto-mothers to do the same. I think it's a beautiful idea, and have completely revised my view of baby showers - at least if they are done like this. And - assuming I'm invited - I shall so enjoy choosing a book! What would you give?
Anne Rooney (aka Stroppy Author)
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