One of my very most favorite parts of the Christmas season is reading out loud to my kids from our (ever growing) stash of Christmas stories. We try to read by the light of the Christmas tree, as if the words and messages of the stories weren’t magical enough.
My kids love this tradition too. It makes mom stop all the craziness and sit down and connect – and cry. They love to see me cry. Not sure why, but I’ve noticed this season that Hazel and Charlie watch my face more than they look at the pictures. I’ve read the same books to them year after year, and they know exactly when it’s coming….my voice chokes up and wavers on the exact same passages every time. (I inherited this trait from my dad). I kind of love it that they know I’m tender, that they remember there’s another side to their crazy, nagging, haggard mom.
My cousin (who has the greatest blog here all about children’s literature) told me she thinks a good children’s book is one that compels the reader to feel empathy. I agree. I think the parts of these books that make me choke up are the ones that tug at my empathy strings. That help me remember and feel connected with something real amidst all this crazy Christmas frenzy.
Here is a list of our very favorites.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause by Amelia C. Houghton
My mom sent this to me years ago, it is a fantastic read aloud chapter book that talks about how Santa became Santa. You won’t want to put it down. It’s full of old school charm. The writing is simple enough for Peter to enjoy it, but deep enough for Hazel and Charlie to feel something deeper than what's going on around them. The ending is just as real and magical as Santa (it doesn’t give anything away).
Christmas Day in the Morning – by Pearl Buck
Pearl Buck is one of my very favorite authors. I try to read this one early in the season to get the kids thinking of the real true gifts of Christmas.
A Small Miracle
If you haven’t discovered this beauty you’re missing out. There are no words, just a simple easy to follow story about real sorrow and real giving. It wasn’t my favorite the first time I ‘read’ through it, but every time I tell my kids the story I see more detail, feel more depth.
This is the Stable
My mother in law sent me this one a few years ago. It’s simple and short and has such lovely pictures coupled with such a pleasant rhythmic telling of the greatest story ever.
The Last Straw
Ok, this one is a little hokey, but still it makes me cry. Probably because it reminds me that Christ can lift my heavy burden (and because lots of times I feel like that camel as I stumble through the Christmas season)
First 2 Chapters of Little Women
I LOVE the first two chapters of this book (Hazel is loving the rest of it right now). I kind of skip some of the play acting part since my little ones find it a little tedious, but their Christmas morning is full of the magic of giving and thinking of others. And I love those little women. Every one of them.
Take Joy – Tasha Tudor
This is a compilation of stories and poems and carols and recipes that we had growing up in our Christmas book basket. I found it at a library sale last year and snatched it up for a buck. I’m just reading through it this year and it’s full of beautiful Tudor illustrations and some magical, old school stuff. My favorite story so far is this one (you can read it online by clicking this link). It’s called The Holy Night by Selma Lagerlof
Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect
This is Hazel’s favorite. Gives us a good reason to buy the scraggliest Christmas tree (and cheapest:))
The Polar Express
No explanation here. Just a good classic. And, oh, how I love those illustrations.
A Christmas Story by Jay Frankston
This one is a great read for an older child who understands the deeper magic of Santa and Christmas. (not for little believers).
And, one for me:
Nedra just sent this in the mail. It’s filled with great 1-3 page essays that are totally helping me navigate Christmas this season. A compilation of writings from some of my very favorite writers (and friends).
I’m realizing this year that I have a lot of picture books, but would love suggestions anyone has for chapter books, books for my older kids that have great writing, and good, empathy drawing, tear jerking stories.