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Why you should throw a book-based birthday party

Searching for a theme for your child’s birthday bash that will make you both smile and create memories you’ll cherish far into the future? Check out their bookshelf for ideas! Book-based birthday parties are a great way to celebrate.

Fun and adorable

Lauren Glaser, elementary school teacher and mom of two in Arlington Heights, is also a fan. She has used books as themes for her children’s first birthday parties — “Where the Wild Things Are” for her son and “Alice in Wonderland” for her daughter.

“I think book-based parties are always the cutest. They are timeless, and so easy to theme with decorations, food, invitations, clothing,” says Glaser.

Endless theme possibilities

“From magical to spooky to humorous, books provide an array of party tones,” says Amanda Blau, children’s services librarian at the Naperville Public Library and mom of two.

While the Harry Potter series is the book-themed birthday theme she’s seen used most often, Blau’s also heard of parties themed on wide variety of books, from “A Wrinkle in Time” to the Goosebumps series and “The Adventures of Captain Underpants”.

“We feel that books open the door to imagination, so it’s no surprise that our most popular characters are derived from storybooks,” says Melissa Duncan, co-founder of Royal Princess Parties that has performers who appear in parties all over the Chicago area.

She suggests following your child’s lead in picking a favorite character and seeing what ideas they have for incorporating the book into their celebration. You may be surprised to learn what they love most about a title.

Built-in party activities

A book-based party certainly lends itself to story time, an easy activity that kids enjoy. One way to make it special is to have a character read the book.

“Storytelling is one of the first activities we host during birthday celebrations,” Duncan says. “Children of all ages connect to the characters in the story. Some recite the tales word for word, others wait with anticipation to hear what happens next.”

In addition to story time, activities from the book may be easily adaptable for the party, whether that’s having the kids all draw on a long piece of butcher paper like Ramona Quimby did with her dad in “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” or conducting simple science experiments as part of a “Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist” party.

Duncan suggests giving guests the opportunity to become authors by having them create a new book. Give kids blank books and have them write and illustrate a new story with crayons and stickers.

Need help or ideas for other activities? Head to the local library and ask the children’s librarian for suggestions.

Easy favors, cake and decorations

Book-based parties make picking a favor easy. All the moms lauded giving books; Glaser says books are useful and don’t add to the clutter.

Duncan notes that books are big hits and that having the birthday child label them for their guests can be a fun. You can also add items for the children to wear when reading the book, such as a hat to go with a Curious George, The Cat in the Hat or Madeline or crowns to go with royal titles.

A cake featuring the main character of the book is always a good idea, and you don’t have to look far for decoration inspiration. Stick with the colors on the cover of the book and be sure to use books themselves.

Reading is fundamental

While the focus should be on the fun, there’s the added benefit of promoting reading among little ones.

“Book-based birthday parties are an exciting way for children to be introduced to new characters or a new series they may not have heard of before, or they can revive a love of reading through the excitement of a friend’s party,” says Glaser.


This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue. 

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