Conferences and Events GatheringReaders

Gathering Readers: A Christmas Par-tey and Belated Birthday Get-together

Two days ago (21st of December), my daughter celebrated her 10th birthday. Instead of doing the usual partee, we thought that it would be more meaningful to share this lovely occasion with her friends from Gathering Readers, the book club that we have initiated three weeks back.

We started the session with me asking the kids about their assignment (“looking at the familiar with strange eyes”) and the books that they have read during the week.

Älvi was not able to bring her book journal with her but she did bring the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And she is wearing her Gathering Readers shirt! 🙂

A gold mask is perfect for this lovely girl.

7 year old Jia Qi listening to the other kids’ stories.

Kids were a wee bit distracted by the party favors (to say the least hehe)

My ten year old enjoying herself.

Andy looks gorgeous in his hat – very kingly.

I also asked the kids to bring their favorite holiday-themed book and to share this with the rest. Sophie brought a book that her father, Ben, just brought from the United States. I failed to take note of the book’s title but it looks gorgeous.

Here is Sophie sharing her book.

Älvi grabbed this Geronimo Stilton Christmas book from the shelf – turns out she has read this before – and she shared with us some of the things that she enjoyed about the book.

Älvi flipping through the pages for some of her favorite passages.

Jia Qi was not able to choose a suitable holiday-themed book so she just shared with us some of the notes that she has taken from the book that she read during the week.

Our newest member in GatheringReaders: Licong

We also had our own version of Secret Santa. I had the kids bring a book for gift-giving (wrapped nicely of course). Then I had them draw lots – instead of putting random numbers in the pieces of paper, I wrote down characters from books we have discussed (e.g. Hugo Cabret, Ebenezer Scrooge, Big Nate, Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, Leslie Burke [from Bridge to Terabithia], etc) – this shall be their ‘codename.’ Then I asked them to put back the sheets of paper and draw another name – this time, they would need to give their book-present to this person with the said ‘codename.’

7 year old Madilyn and 10 year old Myka

Licong holding the book he received.

Best part of all: opening of presents!

Myka proudly sharing the book she received.

I love the look in the kids’ faces. Priceless.

We also had pizza, chips, chocolate chip cookies (which I baked), and cake for sharing. The other kids also brought in a few snacks for sharing. Yum!

Happy Birthday Myka!

Let’s eat! Kyle came in late.

I think this might just be called a ‘face-off’

Kyle with his book present.

We also watched the film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Classic facial expression. This is me holding up the book in my hand.

I also read Maya Angelou’s poem Amazing Peace which has been made into a picture book.

This is Jason amusing himself. And yup, he’s wearing his Gathering Readers shirt. Good on you, Jason!

And finally, group photos!

A glorious Christmas to everyone! This book club is truly a gift to us all. Enjoy the holidays, kids!

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

9 comments on “Gathering Readers: A Christmas Par-tey and Belated Birthday Get-together

  1. What a glorious birthday time for your daughter! It looks like such fun, & the kids are hilarious, especially there at the end. My students always made crazy gestures when we had a group pic, their favorite kind of photo op. I love that they brought book surprises. Merry Christmas!


  2. What a fun birthday! All my favorite ingredients — kids, books, and food! (Love the face-off, too).

    Happy Happy Birthday to your daughter!


    • Hi Jama, I was actually thinking of you when I was baking the cookies! I should have taken more photos. I’m planning on making cashew cookies with mocha icing and peanut butter cookies too, will definitely take photos this time around. 🙂


  3. Best wishes to your daughter!
    It’s a wonderful idea to give books as gifts, and even better, to give each guest a gift.
    P.S. Myra, I love your outfit — the dress and the shimmering shawl.


    • Hi Maria, you’re very kind. I just grabbed the shawl as an afterthought since it tends to get cold at home with our a/c on – thanks for the lovely words. I actually felt like a young grandmother with my braids, shawl and I was barefoot too – add the storytelling time, and I did feel kinda ancient next to these kids 🙂


  4. Pingback: In My Mailbox: A Happy New Year Special «

  5. Hi we also do book exchange parties for our kids. They are a big hit! I love your idea of organizing book clubs and poetry clubs for kids. I was just wondering if you do this informally at your home or is it through a school? How did you get it started?


    • Hi Ruth, truly sorry for getting back so late. I haven’t had a chance to reply to most comments until today. I have actually documented the entire process from the get-go. Here is my initial post about the book club:

      I live on campus (NTU – Nanyang Technological University) since I am a Lecturer here. A few other visiting professors/lecturers also live on campus with their families, thus it was easy for me to send out the invite through our list-serv. I also did the same invitation to my daughter’s classmates’s parents in her international school. Since December is largely a quiet time for us in the university, it was fairly easy for me to arrange it in our home.

      I am not sure whether it can be considered an ‘informal’ gathering since I do have an outline of stuff that we would be covering for each session. I didn’t expect to have this many kids though! I always thought that if I give out a call, the readers would hear it and they would come. and that is what happened here, I believe.


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