Since my daughter's an avid reader at the moment, it was fitting that we once again gently asked for no gifts at her birthday celebration and suggested that party-goers bring books for a book swap. The result was fewer non-book gifts (and all of those that came in were intensely personal - it's like the bookswap frees people up to give quirky, small, wonderful, heart's desires!). This was our second stab at a book swap in lieu of presents. Other years we tried an outright present ban, which had mixed results. People generally like to show up at a small person's party with something in hand. The book swap? Helps with that desire, since every kid gets to help select a book and bring it along. Plus? Every kid gets to go home with a new book, which makes the birthday girl genuinely feel like she's celebrating all the people we love.
I thought I'd pass along our tips in case anyone's planning a party (and for reference for next year!).
Nitty Gritty of a Book Swap:
- Ask participants to bring a gently used or new book, unwrapped.
- Be aware that you can't count on attendees to bring books (too risky).
- Be aware that some attendees will bring special books they really want to give to the birthday child. It's ok. Honor their wishes.
- Secure a larger number of books than attendees per above notes (I went with attendees x 3). Remember that children like to have choices. Plus, it is exciting to be able to pick more than one!
- Procure books that match a wide range of reading levels and interests (match to your group).
- Provide structure, order, and direction (kids like all of 'em).
- Make a display of books (we set them out in rows on a picnic table in about 3 minutes).
- Let the birthday child(ren) go first. Line everyone else up behind them.
- Each child picks one book, then lines up again.
- After each child has picked two books, decide what you want to do with the rest: donate to your local school or family shelter, allow kids to pick more books if they're excited, you name it.
Happy book swapping!
*The picture above is of our cherry tree - which obligingly blooms every year to provide my daughter's birthday confetti....