One of my favorite holiday memories is sitting around the tree and reading stories together around cups of hot cocoa and trays of homemade cookies. I know, it sounds super cliché, but it’s what we did. There was nothing like leaving the stresses of work and school behind and getting into comfy pj’s and slippers and listening to my dad read How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Polar Express. The light of the tree was bright enough to illuminate the pages, and we’d pass the book around and take turns reading the story out loud.
As a proud product of quality parenting, I can tell you this…it is crucial, neigh ESSENTIAL, to take the time to read to your kids. Whether it’s a quick picture book or a lengthy novel, just taking the time every day or every week to set aside and tell a story is so very important to healthy childhood development, at least, IMHO. I look back on those moments with my dad and the rest of my family and I cherish them like no other. Just listening to his voice, the rhythm of his words…I miss those moments dearly…and I greatly look forward to carrying on that tradition with my own family someday.
When it came to our holiday reading list, the books were quite…shall we say, eclectic. Sure we’d read the classics, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Snowman, but we’d also read some really strange books, like The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming and The Jolly Christmas Postman. Since my dad worked at a library, he had hilarious books right at his fingertips…and below are just SOME of the books we’d read together around the holiday season.
If you’re looking to start a reading tradition with your kids, this list is a great place to start. With books that are great for kids of all ages, this list of 15 Christmas Books to Read Out Loud will get you and your family in the holiday spirit in no time…and this tradition will certainly stick with you and your kids for years to come!
15 Christmas Books to Read Out Loud
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
By: Dr. Seuss
A classic favorite around the holidays, How the Grinch Stole Christmas tells the story of a creature called The Grinch who has lived in a cave, hating Christmas, for 53 years. Watching the town of Whoville celebrate Christmas makes him so angry that he decides to dress up as Santa Claus and “steal” Christmas from the Whos, including all their food, decorations, and gifts. But when Christmas arrives and the joy of the holiday still abounds in Whoville, the Grinch learns a powerful lesson about the meaning of the holiday.
The Polar Express
By: Chris Van Allsburg
Perhaps one of my all-time favorite books, The Polar Express is a treasured story about a little boy who boards a magic train headed for the North Pole. Together with a handful of other children, he gets a first-hand look at the Big Man himself, and is even gifted a special present by Santa Claus that serves as a special reminder about the magic of the season. Get out the tissues for this one.
By: Raymond Briggs
Another family favorite, The Snowman is actually a wordless book, told entirely with full-color illustrations. You can gather around and “read” the story together, or designate a special story teller to put words to the images. After a massive snowfall, a little boy rushes out into the wintery weather to build a snowman. But later on that night, he learns that his snowman has come to life! Throughout the night, the boy and his snowman embark on a multitude of adventures together, culminating with a very special trip that will stay in the boy’s memory for the rest of his life. The Snowman was also made into a movie, which I highly recommend. Just the music alone is worth a listen.
The Jolly Christmas Postman
By: Janet Ahlberg
A fun and brightly illustrated book, The Jolly Christmas Postman contains letters to Santa from a variety of characters, including the Big Bad Wolf and all the King’s Men. But perhaps the best thing about this book is that it’s interactive. Kids can physically open letters, read postcards, assemble puzzles, and more. This is a great book for a snow day and a fun way to interact with older kids.
By: E.T.A. Hoffman
Whether you see the ballet or read the book with the family this year, there’s really nothing quite like experiencing The Nutcracker. A simple and charming story filled with the magical dreams of children, The Nutcracker is sure to entertain kids of all ages. If you decide to sit down and read it together, try to find the version with the Maurice Sendak illustrations. It’s beautiful and terrifying at the same time!
The Little Match Girl
By: Hans Christian Andersen
The Little Match Girl is not for the faint of heart. A book more suited to older kids, The Little Match Girl is a story about a little homeless girl who tries to sell matches on the last day of the year. She has nothing to protect her from the cold and eventually she takes refuge between the space of two houses. She ends up using her matches for warmth and what she sees after lighting her matches, well, it’s absolutely beautifully heartbreaking. A book that teaches kids about appreciation and kindness, The Little Match Girl is one that will stick with them for years to come.
Letters from Father Christmas
By: J.R.R. Tolkien
A personal favorite of my dad’s, Letters from Father Christmas comes from the same man who brought us The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Every December, an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter, complete with spidery handwriting and drawings, from Father Christmas himself. A charming and magical book that will give you new parenting goals, Letters from Father Christmas shows how one father truly did his best to make Christmas the most wonderful time for his family.
The Night Before Christmas
By: Clement C. Moore
OK, well this one is just a given. The Night Before Christmas is a beautiful book that is great for kids of all ages. Filled with amazing illustrations and readable prose, this traditional Christmas story is one that can be told in less than 30 minutes, so it’s great for bed time and kids who can’t sit still for too long.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
By: Robert E. Barry
When Mr. Willowby orders his Christmas tree, he comes to discover that it’s just simply too big! He orders his butler to trim a little off the top and discard it. But what happens to that treetop? Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree follows the tree top from Mr. Willowby’s house through a forest of friendly creatures who all get to share in a bit of Christmas joy. I actually read this book a couple years ago with my sister and loved it! It just brought a smile to my face and I just know it will do the same for you!
A Charlie Brown Christmas
By: Charles M. Schulz
A book version of the popular TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a cherished family tradition…and it just wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without reading this book at least twice! A heartwarming tale that talks about the reason for the season, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a sweet and beautiful tale about love, friendship, and what the Christmas spirit truly means.
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
By: Francis Pharcellus Church
In 1897, a young girl wrote to The New York Sun asking whether Santa Claus truly existed. The paper’s response, written by Francis P. Church, has become a beloved holiday tradition for years. Another one that almost always brings me to tears, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus is a book every child should read, as well as every parent and parent-to-be.
The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
By: Jan and Mike Berenstain
A great book for kids who are wrapped up in the gifts, The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving teaches kids a very valuable lesson about the joy of giving to others. A wonderful addition to the full Berenstain Bears collection, The Joy of Giving is one that will help teach kids that sometimes it’s nicer to give than to receive.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
By: Eric A. Kimmel
Like many other kids out there, I grew up in a bi-religious household. My mom was Jewish and my dad was Catholic, so we got to celebrate the best of both worlds! And since Hanukkah almost always falls on our around Christmas, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins always made it on our reading list. When a traveler visits a synagogue that is haunted by Hanukkah goblins, he must use his wit and smarts to beat these goblins at their own game. A book filled with amazing illustrations, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is one that kids and families of all religions can read together and enjoy.
An Orange for Frankie
By: Patricia Polacco
A somewhat true story about the author’s own experiences, An Orange for Frankie tells the story of a little boy named Frankie, who is the youngest boy in his family. He and his family are overjoyed for Christmas, but when Frankie’s father still remains delayed from his business trip on Christmas Eve, Frankie becomes worried. His father promised to bring back oranges for the mantelpiece, and it just won’t be Christmas without them…or Pa! A sweet book that’s close to the author’s heart, An Orange for Frankie teaches an important lesson about giving.
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story
By: Lemony Snicket
Hahahaha, I laugh just thinking about this book! A yummy potato pancake resists his fate of being cooked in oil and runs screaming through the village, spreading a delicious aroma AND a message about a holiday that has nothing to do with Christmas. A Christmas book about Hanukkah, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming is an extremely clever book brought to you by Lemony Snicket and a great story for families who celebrate one or both of these holidays.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.