Whether you are traveling this holiday season or staying home, it’s important to share some holiday stories with your children. Head to the library, or stock your bookshelves with some of these holiday classics and spend some time reading together. We suggest these favorite holiday books to share with your family that will help create some beautiful memories.
One of our favorite past times during the holiday season is reading books together as a family. As a teacher, I’ve read many of these books to students and found that even the older ones still love to hear books read aloud. Set aside some time this busy time of year to read to your children, whether you’re on the road to visit loved ones or simply spending a quiet moment away from the crowds. It’s one of the best gifts you can give them.
Books for Younger Children/Early Grade School/Read Alouds
Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
Jan Brett always creates the most magical holiday tales. In this one, Gingerbread Baby is back and looking for friends, in an adventure he’ll never forget. Confident and cocky, the Gingerbread Baby happens upon a bakery, where he dances and prances in front of a sugar cookie girl, trying to make friends. But she just stares and doesn’t say a word, like all the other sweet treats he tries to meet. Discouraged, the Gingerbread Baby runs home, chased by a long line of hungry creatures, where Mattie has a fantastic surprise for him–gingerbread friends that fill a giant fold-out page. Irresistible images inside the confectionery and outside in the snowy Swiss countryside will delight Jan Brett fans.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell by Lucille Collandro
A wacky new Christmas version of the classic “There Was an Old Lady” song! This time, the hungry old lady swallows a bell, bows, gifts, a sack, a sleigh, and some reindeer! She’s about to swallow a candy cane for dessert, when she hears a jolly “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Santa Claus is waiting for a ride! Watch what happens when she whistles, with amazing results!
The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert
Long ago, a brave little girl named Anja wanted to be one of Santa’s elves. She leaves a note for her family and helps her elderly neighbor prepare for the holiday, then she straps on her skis, and heads out into the snowy landscape. From a red bird to a polar bear to a reindeer, a menagerie of winter animals help Anja make her way to Santa. This beautiful tale is one of many wonderful holiday stories written by Lori Evert.
Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale by Eric A. Kimmel
Before Simon sails to America, he promises his family that he will get a job and send for them. Simon’s mother knows he will need a miracle, so she reminds him to celebrate Hanukkah wherever he may be. Little does either of them know that Simon will spend the first night of Hanukkah on an ice floe after his ship sinks.The lone survivor out in the wide ocean, Simon lights the first candle, and it attracts a visitor: a polar bear. Find out what happens next in this fanciful Hanukkah tale that celebrates eight miracles: family, friendship, hope, selflessness, sharing, faith, courage, and love. A retelling of the ancient Hanukkah story is included on the last page.
A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe
This charming tale of an overgrown pine always being passed by for Christmas, and what his woodland friends do to help him, is sure to become a Christmas classic. A beautiful tale of love and friendship with beautiful illustrations.
Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis
In an African village live seven brothers who make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will be turned out as beggars. This is an original folktale that will help introduce children to the seven principles of Kwanzaa, while also suggesting how Kente cloth was first created.
The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie de Paola
This is a delightful reading of the favorite Italian Christmas story about an eccentric old woman and her never-ending search for the Baby King. Tomie de Paola writes many wonderful books, but his holiday tales never fail to enchant readers.
Skippyjon Jones Snow What by Judy Schachner
Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the bravest Chihuahua of them all? Skippyjon Jones, the cat who thinks he’s a dog! While his sisters listen to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Skippy bounces on his big-boy bed and heads off for the REAL adventure awaiting him in his closet. Once inside, he finds himself in a magical snowy forest of make-believe, where the seven Chimichangos challenge him with his most dangerous task yet: to wake up Nieve Que, the frozen princess, by kissing her! Yuck! Will this hero agree to don a prince’s pantelones and save his poochitos? With rhymes, rollicking wordplay, and mucho fairy tale fun, this fuzzy tale is sure to end happily ever after.
Polar Express: 30th Anniversary Edition by Chris Van Allsburg
A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole . . . Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish. One of the all time Christmas classics.
For Older Grade School Children
Stanley’s Christmas Adventure by Jeff Brown
If your kids are fan of the character Flat Stanley, they’ll love this book. Santa Claus is not his usual, jolly self. In fact, he’s in a terrible mood. He doesn’t believe that children appreciate Christmas anymore. This year, he has decided that he is not going to deliver any Christmas presents! Luckily, his daughter, Sarah Claus, knows who to call for help. The Lambchop family and Flat Stanley! But can they convince Santa that there are still good children in the world? Just leave it up to Stanley.
Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare by William Joyce
Before SANTA was SANTA, he was North, Nicholas St. North—a daredevil swordsman whose prowess was legendary. Like any swashbuckling young warrior, North seeks treasure and adventure, leading him to the fiercely guarded village of Santoff Claussen, said to be home to the greatest treasure in all the East, and to an even greater wizard. But when North arrives, legends of riches have given way to terrors of epic proportions! North must decide whether to seek his fortune…or save the village. This is the first in the series (and movie), The Rise of the Guardians, and kids will hunger for more once the first book is over.
Christmas Around the World by Mary D. Lankford
This book explores the background of Christmas in twelve different cultures around the world. It’s a great way to discuss the differences between the celebrations your family enjoys as well as those of others.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant. None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale has a lot of people up in arms, but it will make this year’s pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.
A Little House Christmas Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder
If anyone is a fan of the “Little House” series, they will love this series about the family’s holiday celebrations.
For Older Children
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This class tale of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation as he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, future, and present is one that all children should know. This tale was originally written in 1843, but the message still translates to today’s audience.
When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke
What would happen if Santa fell to Earth? Scared by a storm, Twinklestar, the least reliable reindeer, bolts, causing Santa and his sleigh to crash-land. Santa has dropped into a friendly neighborhood, but he’s not safe: Jeremiah Goblynch, the ruthless new leader of the Council of Yuleland, is determined to put an end to children’s wishes and turn the holiday season into his own personal moneymaking scheme. As the last REAL St. Nick around, only Santa stands between Goblynch and his grinch-like plan. With the help and hope of kids Charlotte and Ben, Santa must face Goblynch and his Nutcracker goons to save Christmas! Cornelia Funke writes some amazing stories and this is one of them!
The Christmas Genie by Dan Gutman
It’s the last day of school before Christmas vacation and Alex, Chase, and the rest of Mrs. Walter’s 5th grade class couldn’t wish more for the final bell to ring. But the day takes a crazy turn when a mysterious meteorite crashes through the classroom window—and a genie pops out! Bob, as he’s called, is willing to grant only one wish for the class to share, and if they can’t agree on something before the bell rings in an hour, they’ll get nothing at all. What follows is a debate that is at turns thought-provoking and hilarious—and at all times irresistible.
Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix
Shooting at the Stars is the moving story of a young British soldier on the front lines during World War I who experiences an unforgettable Christmas Eve. In a letter home to his mother, he describes how, despite fierce fighting earlier from both sides, Allied and German soldiers ceased firing and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday. They sang carols, exchanged gifts, and even lit Christmas trees. But as the holiday came to a close, they returned to their separate trenches to await orders for the war to begin again.
This story weaves fact and fiction along with detailed illustrations and hand-lettered text. The story celebrates the humanity and kindness that can persist even during the darkest periods of our history.
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in a strange, spidery handwriting and a beautiful colored drawing or painting. The letters were from Father Christmas.
They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place; how the accident-prone North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining room; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house, and many more.No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by Tolkien’s inventiveness in this classic holiday treat.
What are your favorite holiday books to share with your family?
Looking for other fun family things to do this holiday season? Check out the following Traveling Mom posts: Free Things to Do in San Francisco for the Holidays and Where to See the Best Holiday Lights Displays in the Midwest.