Children’s book blog: Christmas books for young children

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 Christmas 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.

‘Tis the Season to Read Jolly: Christmas Books for Young Children

I love Christmas time. Having kids makes it even better since it gives me the excuse to be a kid at heart myself. Among all the other juvenile joys of the season, I get to read lots of Christmas stories. I admit I am a sucker for them.

I do get concerned though that with such buildup for Christmas that the actual day will be a disappointment leading to the Christmas blues. So I try to make it about the whole season – not just the day. (I also try to make sure to read plenty of books having nothing to do with Christmas.) And I try to emphasize that Christmas is about generosity to everyone, especially those we love.

This time of year it can be so easy for children to focus on the presents they are going to get. “What are you asking Santa for?” “What would you like Grandma to give you?” “Remember Santa’s coming – you better be good so he’ll bring you lots of presents.” If you read only the fun books, it can feed into that.

Books help me find a way (aside from general lectures that the kids tune out) to emphasize the importance of giving and the loving spirit that Christmas is about. Some good books for that are:

  • The Secret Keeper by Anna Grossnickle Hines: with everyone else keeping secrets about presents little Josh feels left out of the fun. His grandmother encourages him to make his own secrets by helping him make presents for the rest of his family. He seems more excited by what he is making and giving to his family than by the surprises waiting for him.
  • Toot & Puddle: Let it Snow by Holly Hobbie: in the same vein, this focuses on the two cute pig friends trying to make the perfect present for the other.
  • Zelda and Ivy One Christmas by Laura McGee Kvasnosky: Not the best example, since the girls seem more excited about what they are going to get than give – but they do take the time to think of someone else they love and make a present to cheer her up.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: since my children like the tv special, it’s fun to read this grinchy story out loud, making the most of the voices. It also offers the opportunity to explain what it means when the Grinch discovers that Christmas isn’t about something found in stores.
  • Little Rabbit’s Christmas by Harry Horse: This isn’t about giving or Christmas spirit. But it is a good story to read in preparation for Christmas Day “gimmes”. Little Rabbit gets a present he loves, but doesn’t want to share it with his friends. He learns through experience that not sharing is lonely. He has much more fun once he decides to share his present

The following books are ones I enjoy for more superficial reasons having to do with fun or nostalgia.

Books about celebrating the season:

  • Counting to Christmas by Nancy Tafuri is a sweet book that shows a girl celebrating the season through different activities like making Christmas cards, singing carols, and baking cookies.
  • Lucy & Tom’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes shows a British family enjoying their family’s Christmas traditions.

Books that bring famous Christmas carols to life:

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Barbara Shook Hazen
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town by Haven Gillespie, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, illustrated by Julie Downing
  • Jingle Bells illustrated by Cathie Shuttleworth
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas – the version illustrated by Michael Hague is sweet for babies (cute animals), but once the kids are preschool age I prefer the version illustrated by Tracey Campbell Pearson – which takes an amusing look at the “bring us some figgy pudding” chorus.
  • Twelve Days of Christmas – once again there are sweet ones for babies (one is illustrated by Brian Wildsmith) but for preschoolers I prefer a funny version. Jack Kent illustrates the reaction of a girl receiving the increasingly preposterous gifts.

Stories that are warm and sweet:

  • McDuff’s New Friend by Rosemary Wells
  • Merry Christmas, Ernest and Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent
  • Bear’s Christmas Star by Mireille D’Allancé – I especially like that this looks at the world through the eyes of a child frustrated by always being too little or young for what he wants to do.

Books that are simply fun:

(Note: I focused on the secular/Santa-driven Christmas, since my family isn’t religious. I know the library also has a good selection of religious Christmas stories that I’m sure are worth checking out.)

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