Susan Jerger: Books are the perfect holiday tradition


Holidays are a time of family bonding and giving.

Books are the best way to do both.

When I joined my husband’s family for Christmas Eve celebrations many years ago, I was charmed by their Polar Express tradition. Each year, they end the festivities by opening a well-worn copy of Chris Van Allsburg’s picture book. Everyone takes turns reading a page, ringing a bell, then passing the book to the next family member. They always start from the youngest to the oldest and repeat until the last page.

I threw a wrench into their lore when I joined them, the first addition ever. Each gently moved the pages they had read for many years (and frankly memorized) and developed a new order.

Several years later our daughter was born, then our son – they were helped during the first years with their pages. Then another brother-in-law was added to the mix. Each time, we all moved the pages we read without complaint, happy to have more families joining the tradition.

Perhaps the most important addition was the adoption by my sister-in-law and her husband of two brothers whom they had raised, barely of school age. It was lovely to hear their childish voices utter the words and to see their admiration experiencing this tradition for the first time. I am still a little stifled remembering the expression on my in-laws’ faces when the “little ones” read with us for the first time.

Books weren’t a big part of my early childhood, and I admit I had never even heard of the Polar Express until my first Christmas Eve with my husband’s family. I am grateful for their love of reading and how this led to my children’s love of books far beyond participating in this beloved annual tradition.

As I was a “late” reader, I am very excited to share books with my family. Some of them have become readers over the years, although some have yet to embrace my favorite hobby. However, I have hope for them. Every holiday season (and anniversary), I spend time thinking about the perfect read for each of my family and friends, especially reluctant and newer readers. I am very fortunate to have such wonderful resources on hand at the Greenwood Public Library, especially this holiday season.

I’m not always sure what to choose for young readers or adult non-fiction enthusiasts, so I use GPL’s new Holiday Book Guide. If you also need gift book suggestions, check out And, of course, you can always visit our child and youth librarians for more interesting suggestions, or visit me and the other librarians in Adult Services on the second floor for ideas for the adults in your life.

I can’t wait to reread The Polar Express together soon. In the meantime, I will continue to search for the perfect gift books for all of my family and friends. This holiday season, try to start a family reading tradition. Find the perfect reading to ignite the imagination of a family member or friend this holiday season.


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