Aloud for the Holidays
time for my family always includes reading aloud. Reading aloud
passes along information about the things we believe without lecturing.
Reading aloud gives us a chance to laugh together. Reading aloud
makes us slow down, turn off the TV, and think -- wonderful and
rare things in the hustle of holiday time. And reading aloud isn't
just for the tiniest family members. As we read stories we remember
from our childhoods, we make a special connection -- not just with
our offspring but also with the children we once were.
with all those things in mind, I wanted to look at Christmas read
alouds. If Christmas isn't your cup of nog, don't skip the chance
to cozy up to a good book. Children's books cover the full array
of winter holidays and there is something wonderful out there for
every family. But for those fellow Christmas-philes, let me share
a few of the books that have delighted my family and the families
of those I know. For many families, the "bringing out of the
Christmas books" is every bit as special as trimming the tree.
what's Christmas without A
Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore, also known
as The Night Before Christmas? There is an amazing array
of beautifully illustrated books featuring this poem, making the
experience a visual feast as well as joining your family traditions
to those of generations before you. There are three versions that
I especially love:
Night Before Christmas: Poem, illustrated by Jan Brett,
gives the listeners as much pleasure looking as they get listening.
I especially love Brett's style of doing a picture within a picture
where the border of each page shows antique toys or someone looking
into the page to watch the action. This is a book children won't
tire of looking at soon. The illustrations have the strong Scandinavian
influence seen in most of Brett's work.
visual wonder is The Night Before Christmas, illustrated
by Mary Engelbreit. The Santa in this book really looks like he's
on the verge of breaking into jolly chuckles. Engelbreit's work
is considerably more whimsical than Jan Brett's but this book still
contains plenty of bits to delight a child's eye. And our copy came
with a special treat -- wrapping paper!
huge favorite, though a bit less reading friendly is Robert Sabuda's
Night Before Christmas Pop-up. I love paper engineering
and I can spend hours with a good pop-up book. This one is amazing.
On one page, Santa's reindeer leap out of the page -- all eight
of them -- and charge toward the reader. On the last spread, a village
pops-up complete with buildings whose windows you can peek into
and a tiny bridge. Santa flies overhead. This book is so much fun
to look at, though, that you may have trouble getting your little
ones to listen and the pop-ups are definitely too delicate for little
fingers, but for the pop-up lover, this is a must have.
And, since I've admitted
my passion for pop-ups, I wanted to mention my other hero, David
Carter. His bug books are perfect for little listeners -- bright,
interactive, and matched to simple text. Not all of the bugs are
terribly bug-like but they are all eye-catching and wonderous, my
five year old loves them. For the holiday season you can choose
Twelve Bugs of Christmas (warning, your kids will be singing
this and so will you), Jingle
Bugs, (this one has a tiny tree ornament and ends with
a bug tree that lights up and plays music -- such fun), or Chanukah
Bugs (okay, it's not Christmas but the spinning dreidel
and the Menorah at the end are amazing.)
some families, good Christmas books are those that share the Nativity
story in ways that captivate children. I have two new favorites
that do just that. The first is by one of my favorite picture book
authors: Dori Chaconas. That
Blessed Christmas Night has a simple rhyming text that
reads aloud beautifully. The illustrations by Deborah Perez-Stable
add a special sweetness to the story as they depict small children
doing a Christmas Pageant.
slightly less traditional telling, but incredibly special is One
Winter Night by John Herman. In this story, a little lost
cow looks for a warm place to birth her first calf. She ends up
in the stable where Jesus is born. The text is lyrical and truly
touching and the story makes the circumstances of Jesus' birth amazingly
real and personal. The illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon combine
soft blue-tinted full-page illustrations of the little cow's search
with smaller sepia wood-cuts of Mary and Joseph's parallel search
for a warm place for Mary.
those families with slightly older children, who love to laugh during
read-aloud time, I have two favorites. One offers an interesting
perspective on the meaning of Christmas and the other is just silly
from beginning to end. Sometimes I love silly.
of my good friends reads The
Best Christmas Pageant Ever to her children every year.
This terrific chapter book by Barbara Parks is funny and touching
and just as enjoyable on the 25th read as it was on the first. It
tells the story of how a rowdy family of children, the Herdmans,
crashed the Christmas Pageant changing it into something never seen
before. In the process they learned and taught the community the
true spirit of Christmas.
pure silly hilarity for older kids, nothing beats Santa
Claustrophobia by Mike Reiss, which introduces us to a
town so wonderful, the townspeople named it "Stinky Cigars"
just to keep it from being swamped by tourists. The town is populated
by all the characters of the holiday season: Santa, the Easter Bunny,
Uncle Sam, Doc Holiday and Labor Day Amos -- okay, some of these
characters are a little out of the ordinary. Santa finds the pre-holiday
pressure is getting to him so Doc Holiday sends him on vacation
and the rest of the holiday gang try to do Santa's job. The results
are hilarious and David Catrow's terrific illustrations definitely
add to the giggles.
whether you want a holiday filled with giggles or snuggly moments,
there's a book out there for your family. Why not pick up a book
or two and add reading aloud to your holiday traditions? I bet you'll
be glad you did.
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