Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gift of recordable storybooks keeps on giving

My nephew Ryan texted me a couple photos over the weekend of his children listening and reading along to the Hallmark recordable holiday storybooks I helped my Dad personalize for them five years ago.

Mom had just passed away in September of that year, and Dad’s health was precarious.

Ryan and family planned to come for Thanksgiving that year, along with his parents. My brother’s family traditionally visited at Thanksgiving, and the day after we always had our Christmas with them. We hadn't exchanged gifts in several years, but when I saw a magazine ad for the books and a coupon, I decided to make an exception.

Turns out Dad was a natural-born narrator (we already knew he could spin a good yarn), and I was a pretty good technical coach. We had fun preparing the books together, and we both enjoyed surprising his great-grandkids. I think their parents—my Dad’s grandkids—were just as thrilled.

This is a gift that keeps on giving, year after year, to all within its reach.


This Friday, a few minutes after midnight, marks two years since Dad passed. But thanks to these books, his great-grandchildren still know his voice and his love for them. My only regret? I wish I'd known about these books sooner and done the same with my Mom. 

Shucks, I wish I had one of these books for myself so I could hear both their voices again!


Building a family tradition


“Each year we bring out the books when ‘Elfie,’ the elf of the shelf, shows up,” Ryan says. “Each night Pap—‘Great Grandpa’—reads to the kiddos.”



Jack—who is 7 and shares a first name with his grandfather (my brother) and two now-deceased great-grandfathers—received Frosty the Snowman. Big sister Kylee received The Night Before Christmas.


A way to talk about the cycle of life


“Kylee was super-emotional last night, but we just hugged her and listened to the story over and over,” Ryan says. “I think she was emotional because she understands more now that she is 9 and knows Pap is in heaven. I tell her that her great-grandparents are always watching and enjoy seeing her and her brothers grow up.”



Ryan’s wife Christy snapped this picture Saturday. "I came up, and she was quietly listening to your Grandpa reading The Night Before Christmas," Christy said to Ryan. "I had to leave the room because I started to cry.”

My brother Jack, responding to the texted photo of his granddaughter making the family rounds, replied, “I DID cry.”


Good therapy


“Honestly, the books are great for the kids and therapeutic for me,” Ryan says. “It's awesome to hear Pap’s voice still. The kids are always excited about it and say, ‘I want Great-Grandpa to read to us.’ Cameron joins in the fun, too.” 


FOUR GENERATIONS (clockwise from upper left): My brother Jack, his son Ryan, Ryan's son Cameron, my dad (a.k.a. Pap and Great Grandpa), and Ryan's older son Jack.

Cameron, who’s 4 now, only “met” my Dad once, when he was about five months old, at dad's 90th birthday bash. Because many miles separate us, I mostly know Cameron through pictures (that sweet smile and those dancing eyes!) and through stories my brother and sister-in-law tell me. He’s full of spirit and fun—lots of attitude—all of which means he and Dad would have been thick as thieves.


Many options


Hallmark offers 22 different recordable titles on its website. Of those, five are Christmas or winter-holiday themed. Read the reviews, but keep a box of tissues handy. Adults with terminal illnesses use these books to say good-bye to and comfort their adult children as well as grandchildren. My nephew is testament to the books’ effectiveness at any age.



These three interactive books allow for both parties in the title to respond to the same questions, providing a unique interchange that lasts a lifetime.

All the books come with easy-to-follow recording instructions that take you through page-by-page. You get infinite “do-overs,” and when you’re satisfied with the “take,” there’s a lock feature so it doesn’t get accidentally erased. One page down, then move on to the next, easy as that punkin’ pie Great-Grammy used to bake.

Did I mention the books also help pre-readers put sounds to words? Well, now you know. So there!

Seriously, neither Kylee nor Jack could read when they received their books, but at 4 and 2 they loved them anyway. The illustrations are beautiful, and the books are extremely durable. Your littles ones will follow along the script while playing each page, just as Kylee and Jack did, and play it over and over to learn the words. 


Special savings for a limited time


Book prices are $24.95 and $29.95. But Hallmark has some special offers coming up for the holidays, so plan ahead and follow the links for details.

Pap Jack’s tip


I initially suggested buying one book for Ryan’s family to share and another for his sister’s family. But Dad immediately and emphatically said, "No," that each of the four children should have his or her OWN book. So that’s what we did: Frosty for the boys, Clement Moore’s famous poem for the girls.

Turns out Dad was right. Again. But this was one time I didn’t mind admitting it.

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