Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Favorite Christmas Read-alouds

From last year in December...

Years ago, before I had any children, I started a book collection.  I read the books to myself, and I read the books to my classes when I was a teacher. I chose books that made me laugh and/or cry.  Our book collection continues to grow, and our home is currently at risk of being overtaken by books. 

When my kids were very young, I read an idea to use a Christmas book basket as a sort-of countdown activity.  I wrapped all our books in gift wrap and put them in a basket under the tree. We let the kids choose one to open each evening of December.  We bought a new book each year (and wrote the date inside the cover) to add to our collection. Choosing one or two each evening helped us get all the books read, and gave the kids the treat of opening a gift.  After 12 or more years of this, we have a huge collection of Christmas books, as well as a "favorites" list.  (Luckily I don't have to spend the time wrapping them anymore.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is an all-time favorite, because of it's longevity.  My teenagers still enjoy it, while most of the picture books don't keep their attention any more.  The copy I read from is 25-30 years old--mine from when I was a kid.  It takes a few evenings to read and has very few pictures, so it is probably best for school-aged kids. It will make you laugh out loud and will cause you to pause and consider the wonder of the birth of Christ in a fresh way.

One Wintry Night is a favorite chapter/picture book.  A boy is caught in a mountain blizzard at Christmas time and ends up staying in the cabin of an older woman who had known his grandfather.  She tells him the Christmas story, beginning with creation and ending with the resurrection.  It's like a condensed version of key events of the Bible, showing a big picture perspective of how the birth of Christ fits in with God's bigger plan for mankind.  The illustrations are large and amazing, but this book will take a few evenings to finish.

One of the earliest purchased Christmas books of our collection, set in the Appalachian mountains during World War I, is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree  by Gloria Houston. Easy to read to young children in one setting.  I'm warning you mothers, have a tissue ready.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is a tender story of a lonely man whose wife and child died, and he has become bitter. He lives in the same town with a widow and her son and they ask Mr. Toomey to carve a nativity set for them. They begin spending time with him as he works on their nativity. In the process of carving the nativity set, Mr.  Toomey deals with some of his grief and his heart is softened toward making new friends. (sniff-sniff)

Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Richard H. Schneider is a story of how the young tree, Small Pine, gives shelter to many creatures in the forest, but sacrifices a perfect appearance as a result.  In spite of the imperfections, the queen chose Small Pine as her tree for the castle, because she recognized these imperfections as the result of sacrifice for others.  It teaches that living for the sake of others makes us beautiful in God's eyes.

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt is as much an Easter story as it is a Christmas story.  In this folktale, three trees are disappointed that their dreams are never achieved.  Each tree eventually gets his wish in a manner that only God could have fulfilled.

I will always love The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs. It is good for young children -- a great story of a family who generously gave away a prized possession.

When Washington Crossed the Delaware is an amazing way to include our nation's history with our Christmas season. It was written by Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney. It retells a dramatic event that took place on Christmas night in 1776.  The book is lavishly illustrated, which makes it extra enjoyable.


  1. I recently read of others people who do the wrapping of a book, and read one every night during December as well. But this is something new to me. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites. I think I will need to start my Christmas book collection now. It will be something worth while to spend my Swag Bucks on. :)

  2. I am going to start that tradition! I love it! And the first is the best, I haven't read the others but few will have a place in my heart like the Herdmans.

  3. I love the idea of wrapping up the books. Maybe next year I'll give it a try. We are in our second year of reading the advent book series by Arnold Ytreetide. Carter and Owen love them, but Lewis is a little young yet. They are so well written with lots of action for the boys.