A few years back, I first heard about Jolabokaflod. Translated loosely to “Christmas Book Flood,” Jolabokaflod is an Icelandic holiday tradition. On Christmas Eve, people give gifts of books and then everyone reads and drinks hot cocoa together. Ever since I’ve heard about this tradition, I have wanted to adopt it as one of my own.  

Jolabokaflod started during World War II when many supplies were rationed and there were few options for gift giving. Paper, however, was not one of the items rationed, and so books became the gift of choice. Icelanders continue today to be a nation of booklovers, reading an average of 28 books per person each year compared to only four a year in the United States.  

Giving books and reading together is a gift in more ways than one. All ages experience the benefits of reading. Healthline.com shares a myriad of research-backed benefits of reading from birth through adulthood. These range from lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and depression, strengthening the brain, and lengthening lifespans. Reading is especially beneficial for children, starting as newborns when their brains are developing, and throughout adolescence. Reading with children, either to them, or alongside them, lets them know that you value reading and that it is a pleasurable activity. They will learn from your example to value it as well. The nonprofit children’s literacy organization, Ferst Readers, cites “Fifty Top Literacy Statistics” on their website with examples of how developing a reading habit will help your child in life if you need more reasons. 

With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a multitude of other sales and promotions upon us, why not put books at the top of your shopping list? They can be inexpensive and the variety to choose from is endless. Like a lot things, some new books have been affected by the pandemic and supply chain issues, but unlike many other gifts you may be considering, there are still plenty of books available to choose from. An excellent place to start your shopping, with the best deals in town, is at one of the many JCLS Friends of the Library Bookstores. The Medford Friends of the Library is having a “Holiday Book Clearance” event December 3rd & 4th. In Ruch, there will be a “First Saturday Book Barn Sale” from 12:00–4:00 pm. You can also check your local branch for any sales or promotions.  

If you do not know what books you should give as gifts, start by asking the children or adults in your life what they like to read or what they are interested in. Some people think that their child is not much of a reader or not really into books so they don’t think a book is an appropriate gift. However, these are the children that will especially gain advantages of being given the right book. Are they into Legos? There are books that will give them ideas of things to build. Is there a video game addict in your life? Try books with their favorite game’s “cheat codes” or stories featuring gamers like them. What about giving a cookbook and trying recipes together? This could be a gift for you both to enjoy together. Librarians are also happy to recommend books to buy or check out, just ask!  

Not everyone gives gifts during this season. Some people’s religions don’t recognize a gift-giving holiday during this season. Some people may choose not to give gifts for other reasons. The library can help in these instances as well. Visit any of our branches and check out books, movies, and more for free and receive all the same literacy benefits that you would if you were buying them. This holiday season, give the gift of books, literacy, and togetherness by putting on your pajamas, cozying up with a warm drink, and enjoying a new book. It does not have to be done only on Christmas Eve. In fact, why not try it multiple times over the holidays? You could also download an audiobook to listen to together on car ride to visit family or friends from our Library2Go service, or other digital offerings.  It will be a calming break from the hustle and bustle of the season. You may even find yourself continuing the tradition year-round.