Every year it seems like there are some awesome new books out for the holidays. And if you’re still new to teaching, there are a TON of older books that you may not have heard of that are AMAZING. Here I review some of what I would contend are the best Christmas read alouds.
December by Eve Bunting
This book tells the story of a homeless mother and son who live in a cardboard box. Even though they’re homeless, they still have a tiny tree decorated with odds and ends and a picture of an angel on their wall. On Christmas Eve a woman comes and knocks on their door and they let her in and share what little they have. The next morning the woman is gone, but there lives start to change and the next Christmas they have an apartment. A great story for trauma-sensitive teaching and showing a miracle of Christmas.
Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares
This tells a story of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City. Red and Lulu are a pair of cardinals who live in a big tree. One day while Red is out getting food to bring back to Lulu, the tree gets cut down. Red returns in time to see the tree being taken away with Lulu trapped inside. He flies after the truck carrying the tree, but he loses it. Red keeps flying, though, and comes to a big city. He searches and searches and he finds the tree and Lulu! The beautiful story has stunning illustrations and provides more background about the tradition of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. A great story for teaching perseverance.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
It’s not winter or Christmas without Jan Brett. This Brett story tells the tale of the elf who Santa assigns to training and readying his reindeer for flying his sleigh. The elf tries commanding and controlling the reindeer without getting to know them. They don’t listen to her and both the elf and reindeer get very frustrated. Eventually, the elf starts to listen to and get to know the reindeer and has them ready just in time. A great story for showing students who important it is to think about others and show empathy even if you are supposed to be in charge.
The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow
This tells the classic Nutcracker story in 1920s Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. It allows you to make connections to some of the key players of the jazz scene of the time. Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Ransome adds beautiful illustrations to accompany E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic ballet story. McMorrow adds a note at the end explaining the Harlem Renaissance.
The Legend of the Poinsettia & The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola
Who doesn’t love learning about Christmas around the world? Both of these books by Tomie dePaola are classics telling stories from Christmas in Mexico and Italy. One explains the story of the poinsettia or the Flor de Nochebuena as it’s known in Mexico. The other tells the story of the Italian Christmas Witch Old Befana who visits children on the Epiphany.
A Wish To Be A Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe
This story told through verse tells the tale of an old evergreen who has passed Christmas after Christmas seeing his friends picked to be someone’s special Christmas tree but never being picked himself. He never had said a thing to any of his animal friends until that Christmas. As he slept, then, his animal friends decorated him so that when he awoke he saw how beautiful he was.
Olive the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh
This is a funny story of how Olive the dog misunderstood the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer song. She heard “Olive the other reindeer…” (“All of the other reindeer”), and she decided that that must mean that she was a reindeer. She went up to the North Pole and helped Santa save Christmas despite not being able to fly.
The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus
This is another funny take on the serious subject of not believing in Santa except in reverse. Santa stops believing in a boy named Harold because he looks different every year, he thinks his parents write his Santa letter, and he’s pretty sure he couldn’t even put out a treat for Santa. Meanwhile, Harold is having some of the same doubt as Santa. Both Santa and Harold decide to try to catch each other, and they both are surprised on Christmas morning to discover that the other is real! Your kids will die laughing!
When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey
This shows a side of Santa that that a lot of kids probably never thought about. It shows what Santa was probably like growing up. He always wore red. Baby Santa loved standing in front of the fridge with the doors open. He also gave his birthday presents away to neighborhood kids. It was a really fun imagining of Santa’s childhood great for describing characters.
Pick a Pine Tree
This story was from one of my favorite publishers: Candlewick Press. This book was very similar to the rhyme in A Wish To Be a Christmas Tree, but far more upbeat as it deals with only the happy parts of picking a Christmas tree.
Classics and Honorable Mentions
What are some of your favorite Christmas read alouds? Did I leave out a really good one? Let me know in the comments.