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"Books for Christmas – what da heck is that?!?"

Have books really become the gift that kids don't want to find under the Christmas tree?

By Rebekah Denn / December 27, 2010

"I don't get books for Christmas," insisted toddler Michael Helms on a viral YouTube video. "I get toys!"

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Among other gifts this year, my 3-year-old got the latest “Knuffle Bunny” hardcover and a dinosaur encyclopedia. My 8-year-old opened “The Secret Garden” and a stack of “39 Clues.” Luckily, neither reacted the way that a 3-year-old did in a “Books for Christmas?!” video that went viral on YouTube, garnering more than 1.5 million views.

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“Books for Christmas?! What da heck is that?” the tot squeaks on YouTube after unwrapping a package. As his parents laugh, he becomes ruder in inimitable 3-year-old style.

The video was actually made last year, but its sudden fame landed the child, Michael Helms, and his mom on the Today show and on newspaper pages. The video had garnered plenty of negative comments, the show’s hosts noted. His mom defended Michael, saying that his behavior was typical for his age and that “he loves books.” Their YouTube page also says he had perhaps picked up the media message that Christmas is all about toys and that they’ve worked to teach him otherwise.

As parents, we learn pretty quickly that we shouldn’t judge other parents and kids on a bit of out-of-context behavior, lest we be judged ourselves. But I did feel nonplussed at the video’s popularity. Are books really in the “underwear” or “school supplies” category of gifts these days? Some of my most treasured childhood presents are still with me on my shelves, inscribed to me from my mom or dad.

The YouTube kid gave me a little bit of hope, when, on the Today show, he opened a gift from the show’s hosts, a Woody doll from Toy Story, and complained, “Again, this?” with the timing of a Borscht Belt comedian. “I got this already!”

Surely some of the video’s popularity is in Michael’s sheer hammy naughtiness.

Luckily, there are some books for that too. From personal experience, I’ve been a fan of “Your 3-year-old: Friend or Enemy?” and “Positive Discipline for Preschoolers.

Did you give or get any books this holiday season? How were they received? (Hopefully not in Michael Helms-style!)

Rebekah Denn blogs at eatallaboutit.com.

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