I loved Valentine’s Day as a kid. I loved picking out little cardstock valentines and taking way too much time figuring out which of my classmates was going to get which specific one. I was always determined to match each character on the valentine to a classmate—usually based on some sort of personality trait. I loved passing them on to my classmates, teachers, family members, even people I saw in the laundromat. I loved spreading the love during Valentine’s Day. 

As I got older, though, that got harder, and I think it was because there was a shift in the definition of “love.” As a kid, love was a feeling you had for your parents, friends, siblings, pets, or even stuffed animals, and there was no sense of shame in proclaiming this love. 

In middle and high school, this wasn’t the case. Love—at least in the Valentine’s Day sense—was only reserved for crushes, or your boyfriend or girlfriend, and even this show of affection was limited if your crush or partner was of the same gender as you, or no gender at all. And if you didn’t have a crush or partner (or had no interest in having one), well, no Valentine’s Day for you. 

In high school, the pressure to have a special someone just escalated with the addition of flower grams (a program where you could have a flower delivered to your crush in the middle of class). And if that isn’t romantic enough, you could take matchmaker personality tests that matched you with five people (again—of the opposite gender) in your school because nothing says soul mates like having the same favorite color or liking the same reality TV shows. 

I missed handing out valentines to people I liked—not just people I like liked. 

So, this year, I say we bring kid Valentine’s Day back. Give notes to the friends and family in your life that you love. Tell a co-worker you appreciate them or love the work they do. Give your pets extra treats. Give your childhood teddy bear that you’ve kept because it has sentimental value while also allowing it to sit and get a little dusty, a good cleaning, and even a hug (that one might be just for me). 

And finally, write “I love you” on a sticky note and place it somewhere where you’ll see it every day. You deserve love, too. 

If you want some books that celebrate love – in all its forms this Valentine’s Day, check out the lists below. 

Picture Books that Celebrate Many Types of Love | Main library (jcls.org) 

Middle Grade Books that Celebrate Many Types of Love | Main library (jcls.org) 

Young Adult Books that Celebrate Many Forms of Love | Main library (jcls.org)