Sunshine streams through the bedroom window. A small child, dressed in Superman pajamas, wakes up. He yawns, stretches, and sits up on the edge of the bed. He surveys his room. Everything looks the same, but wait. There is a wrapped package at the foot of his bed!

The wrapped package is part of a program called “A Book on Every Bed.” Developed by the advice columnist Amy Dickinson together with Ithaca, New York’s Family Reading Partnership, the program fosters literacy and the special bond that develops between a child and an adult when they read a book together.

As Amy Dickinson wrote in her nationally syndicated advice column, “In the morning, the children in your household will awaken to a gift that will far outlast any toy: a guided path into the world of stories. And as our friends at Reach Out and Read remind us: give not just the gift of the book, but also provide a caring adult to share reading it aloud. An adult’s interaction with a young child over a book is what brings the story alive and gives reading the immense power it has to build brain circuitry. No amount of access to the latest screen or gadget can equal the powerful intimacy of sharing a book.”

Amy Dickinson acknowledges that this idea was “stolen” from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, author of the books Truman, John Adams, and The Wright Brothers. McCullough once related that every Christmas morning during his childhood, he and his siblings awoke to the gift of a wrapped book on their beds, delivered in the night by Santa.

When could YOU put a wrapped book on a child’s bed? The activity is not limited to Christmas. You could do this on any holiday. You could do this on the child’s birthday. You could do it any day of the year for no reason at all. The book could be new or used. For suggestions on excellent books for children, go to www.reachoutandread.org.

Does the book have to be gift wrapped with store bought wrapping paper? Absolutely not! Be creative. Use the comics from the Sunday newspaper. Use the colorful Jewel ad from the inserts in the newspaper. Cut up a brown paper grocery bag and use it to wrap the book. Use the ACE Hardware flyer. Almost any paper will add to the mystery and excitement.

Amy Dickinson estimates that over one million children have been the recipients of a book as a result of the program, “A Book on Every Bed.” Many American Home Health pediatric duty nurses already read to their young clients. Here’s an opportunity to add an element of surprise and delight to a child’s day.

—By Karen Centowski

To read a newspaper column by Amy Dickinson in which she describes the program, “A Book on Every Bed,” go to facebook.com/adickinsondaily.