I've seen variations on this idea floating around the last few years and have been wanting to get organized enough to do it. Combining reading and Christmas excitement– how can you lose? I finally got enough books together before December started to do it this year.
The last few years I've pulled all the Christmas themed books together and put them in a basket near the tree, so kids could find them easily and we could read them throughout the holiday season. I've liked how that worked out and will probably incorporate it into this activity, too, by leaving the basket there to collect the books we've already opened. Even if kids have seen most of the books before, having them all together and easily accessible makes them exciting again every time we dig all these books out again.
I hate buying wrapping paper since it often costs more than the gifts I'm wrapping (unless I buy it right after Christmas for the next year) so I just used brown packing paper and baker's twine. I also pulled out some Christmasy patterned paper and tags and labeled each book with a date.
I also like the easy visual of knowing whether we actually opened the book for each day. While hopefully we'll read most of these together, I have lots of kids with very diverse and crazy schedules! It's very unrealistic to think we'll all do every day together throughout the whole month. This way, it's clear where we are and if we've opened one for the day.
I did buy a couple new Christmas books this year, but we had a pretty big collection to begin with. (Mom for 14 years + English teacher + childcare business owner = excessive amounts of books!) Some I like more than others, so I'm still looking for good suggestions for people's favorites. I only really love a few of these.
Since my kids' ages span 4-14 we have quite a variety included. I ended up weeding out the board books since we are a bit beyond those now, but we still have some that have only a handful of sentences throughout the whole book and some that are a few hundred pages.
Here's what's wrapped up this year:
1. Elf on the Shelf.
We've done this tradition the last couple years & the kids really enjoy it so we'll start off reading the story again.
2. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Illustrated by Susan Jeffers ç 2001.
This isn't actually a Christmas book, but I love this poem by Frost and haven't read it to my kids in awhile. I'm including it!
3. Santa: My Life and Times. An Illustrated Autobiography. Jared F. Green, Marin I. Green and Bill Sienkiewicz. © 1998.
Not a one night read! (128 pages) We'll read a few chapters and then leave it out for older kids to keep looking at throughout the month.
4. Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki and Ivan Gantschew. © 2007
5. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado. © 1994
6. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston. Illustrated by Barbara Cooney. © 1988
Appalachian Christmas story of a family making sure Christmas goes on while a father is at war.
7. The 12 Days of Christmas by Helen Haidle. Illustrated by Laura Knorr. © 2003
Explanation of the history behind each of the 12 days of Christmas.
8. A Star so Bright by M. Christina Butler and Caroline Pedler. © 2007
Simple, rhyming verse about all the animals seeing the guiding star on the first Christmas.
9. The Very First Christmas by Paul Maier. Illustrated by Franciso Ordaz. © 1998.
Story of a child asking questions about the first Christmas, with detailed answers using biblical passages to retell the story
10. The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup and illustrated by Matt Tavares. © 2009
Fun illustrations help tell the story of a gingerbread pirate’s adventures on Christmas Eve.
11. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien. 2004 edition
Tolkien started writing & illustrating letters to his children from Santa in 1920 and continued for the next twenty years. This is 110 pages so we’ll just read a few and keep it out so kids can keep looking at it throughout the month.
12. Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard Schneider. Illustrated by Elizabeth Miles. © 1987.
Story about the beauty in living for the sake of others.
13. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck and illustrated by Mark Nuehner. © 1955.
A young boy figures out how to give a meaningful Christmas gift without money.
14. The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans. Illustrated by Jacob Collins. © 1998.
A candle shows a young man the true meaning of Christmas.
15. Humphrey’s First Christmas. Written and illustrated by Carol Heyer. © 2007.
The story of the first Christmas from one of the camel’s point of view.
16. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss. © 1957.
17. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. © 1995
*long one! Reserve extra time or a couple nights in a row.
18. One Snowy Night by M. Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton. © 2004.
A Christmas present makes the rounds of animals one snowy night.
19. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry © 1963
Cute illustrations and rhyming story about a whole group of animals finding the perfect Christmas trees.
20. The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman. © 2009
Emphasizes the most important thing about Christmas is the people you care about.
21. Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Jane Chapman and Karma Wilson. © 2007
Cute story about a little mouse learning about Christmas. . . except it freaks me out to read about pretend cartoon mice crawling all over the house. I know I’m weird. The kids like it anyway & it is a sweet story.
22. Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated by Diane Goode. © 1952
Simple retelling of the first Christmas. Written as a concise rhyme good for young kids.
23. Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne. Illustrated by Jim Griffin. © 2004
24. The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans. © 2002
A small boy learns it isn’t what you have to give but how much you give of yourself that matters.
I couldn't find our copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but I definitely want to include that one next year!