This is the latest in an occasional series by Beth Melo, a Southborough mom who loves to read to her kids. In this installment, Beth shares her picks for Thanksgiving reading. This post was originally published on the Southborough Library website, and has been reposted here with permission. For more of Beth’s book recommendations, click here.
I personally find Thanksgiving to be one of the tougher holidays to explain to young children. (Perhaps if a magical turkey brought them candy Thanksgiving morning it would be easier. But, “thankfully” it doesn’t, since the last thing our house needs right now is more candy.)
Fortunately, there are some cute children’s books that help make this time of year fun for babies and others that give some context to preschool aged children.
Starting with the fun, these two picture books aren’t actually about Thanksgiving, but funny turkeys are always festive this time of year. As a bonus, these both reinforce learning numbers:
Gobble-gobble crash! A Barnyard Counting Bash by Julie Stiegemeyer is a cute story about wild turkeys loose on a farm at night. The fact that they need to hide from the farmer does seem Thanksgiving relevant.
Ten fat turkeys by Tony Johnston is a silly book about turkeys on a fence. It’s their ridiculous antics that make the predictable countdown fun. (The Southborough Library’s version of this can be found in the paperback picture books.)
A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman is also good fun for older preschool to 1st graders. Townspeople try to lure a turkey for their Thanksgiving feast, but the turkey outwits them.
Another one that looks funny, but I couldn’t get a hold of yet to actually read – Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano is about a turkey that tries to disguise itself before Thanksgiving.
For introducing the holiday to a child too young to remember or to remind your child about how your family celebrates, This is the Turkey by Abby Levine is cute. It is written in the style of “this is the house that jack built”, with context that is most likely to be familiar. It’s an idea of how a “typical American family” celebrates, with a fun twist. Even if your family does things differently, you can still use it as a point of reference and talk about your own traditions.
If you want to focus on the purpose of giving thanks, Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland is sweet. It doesn’t explain what Thanksgiving is. But it shows examples of what children can be grateful for this time of year.
When reading about Thanksgiving’s origins, the idea of living the way the Pilgrims did seems hard for young children to grasp. I like to really stop and talk about it. I especially point out why we should be grateful when we celebrate the day. For toddlers and young preschoolers you want to stick to the basics. Here are three from the Southborough Library’s holiday collection that I’ve used and liked in order of preference:
Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell. This looks at Thanksgiving from the point of view of a child who just learned about it in preschool. It explains holiday traditions from pilgrim hats to why we eat turkey and cranberry sauce. It also reinforces giving thanks throughout the book.
Thanksgiving Day by Gail Gibbons. This is a simplistic overview of the Pilgrims and the holiday. Unlike Rockwell’s book, it explains a little about the hardships the Pilgrims faced during the first year.
The very first Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Gowler Greene. Once again in the style of “this is the house that jack built”, this book shows Pilgrim and Wampanoag children preparing for the feast. The focus is on the preparation, not the reason behind it. But it does show how the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people lived. It was also nice for my kids (used to having their meals presented to them) to learn how much work was required of those children at a young age.
Once again, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com. Or post your favorite Thanksgiving time books in a comment below.