24 Books About Christmas

The Advent is upon us. If you don’t have a plan, here is an idea for you using books about Christmas. (It’s still early days, you can totally start today or tomorrow, or later, if you want!) Wrap up a book for each day until Christmas, and every day your child can unwrap the book and you can read them together. A friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that she did this last year, and I thought it was a fabulous idea so we are doing it this year. I’m not buying 25 new books. We already have several Christmas books, I packed them away with the Christmas tree so they feel new at Christmas time, so this will work perfectly for me. The few new books we have in the mix this year were given to me by Scholastic to review.

1. The Nights Before Christmas (24 Classic Stories Illustrated by Tony Ross)


If you were going to choose one book from this list, (and you have children 6 years and older), choose this one. The stories are quite long, so it’s not the best book for toddlers. If you got it while the children are under 8, it will certainly be a keepsake to treasure in years to come. I think the stories would be suitable right through to upper primary. The reason I would recommend it so highly is that I suspect most households would have a selection of modern Christmas books in their libraries.  This book is literary extension for the modern day kid and has classic tales, which sometimes take longer to tell, but also develops the child’s literature appreciation as well as extending vocabulary and gaining literary knowledge. Many of the stories are age old classics that our grandparents would have read or listened to during their childhood. With the wealth of children’s books available these days, sometimes the classics that have been passed down the generations are being overlooked for some of the newer stories and their bright glossy covers. This book has a story for each day in December (a perfect advent alternative) and includes work by authors such as Leo Tolstoy, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Charles Dickens and The Bible. Titles include The Snow Queen, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, The Little Match-Seller, The Story of the Christ-Child, Good King Wenceslas and The Nativity.

I love that the lavish images depicted by Tony Ross bring these golden oldies to light.

2. My First Countdown to Christmas (Dr. Mary Manz Simon)


If you have a toddler and you were choose one book from this list, choose this one! I bought our copy years ago from Koorong, they are still selling it, click here if you are interested. Each day has an explanation about Christmas traditions or the Christmas story, followed by a simple activity for children to do which will channel a young child’s anticipation for Christmas and help them celebrate the birth of Jesus. There is also a simple prayer and Bible verse for each day.

This is a board book, so it really is suitable for little children, but my lower primary child still engages with the text and it’s a great springboard to discuss the significance of Christmas each day.

3. There Was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Present (P. Crumble & Louis Shea)


My boys love this crazy old bloke. We enjoyed The Old Bloke Swallowing a Rabbit at Easter, so there is no doubt that the boys are going to once again be laughing at this silly old codgers antics, starting with its amazing lenticular moving image cover! There are funny elements to look for on each page, which always engrosses them following the sub-stories contained in the illustrations.

4. Child of Bethlehem (Elena Pasquali)


This story very closely follows the Biblical account of The Nativity, yet uses simplified, (but not dumbed down) easy to understand language with bright and colourful illustrations. It is so important to our family that the children understand the real reason behind Christmas, so it is imperative that The Nativity features in this list.

5. My Merry Christmas (Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley)


This is a particularly good book for very small children. Even older babies would be able to engage with much loved illustrator, Bruce Whatley’s, illustrations of friendly animals on each page. There is only a few words on each page, so their attention should be maintained the duration of the book. I’ve had 5 babies though, and know there is no guarantee when it comes to babies and attention! The book describes some of the traditions we follow at Christmas, so toddlers are quick to engage with the content and relate it to their own experiences.

6. Santa’s Busy Reindeer (Ed Allen, Nathaniel Eckstrom)

 

It’s nearly Christmas! The presents are wrapped and the sleigh is packed, but ten of Santa’s reindeer still have lots to do. This rhyming story can be sung to the tune of ‘Ten Green Bottles’. Personally, I see the benefits of these counting/subtraction stories, but singing them to my kids often bores me to tears, even though the child isn’t bored in the slightest. This particular book has got enchanting illustrations in it though, so I quite enjoyed it. Trent also loved finding the hidden number to look for in each scene. So I have to admit, even though these are not my favourite books, there are great reasons for reading/singing them. (It must be helping, Trent already recognises all numbers 10 and under. Subtraction isn’t an easy concept to learn either, so this is a good into. He will be well and truly ready for Prep next year!)

7. Santa Koala (Colin Buchanan & Glen Singleton)


Our children are a little bit in love with Colin. Any book that accompanies a CD of Colin singing is bound to be a winner in our house. Feature Santa in the story … and well, you can’t lose! (We also love have a Christmas DVD with Colin outlining the Christian elements of Christmas which brings a bit of balance to all the fun also!) This song is to the tune of Waltzing Matilda and very Aussie, particularly with the real Santa calling Santa Koala a great galah for delivering the presents early!

8. A Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Christmas (Mark Mac Leod, illustrated by May Gibbs)


This is a Christmas story based on May Gibbs’ best-loved characters, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie introducing the timeless artwork of May Gibbs to a new generation with illustrations capturing the beauty of the Australian bush. I hadn’t realised that when May Gibbs died in 1969 she bequeathed the copyright of her bush characters to charities.

In doing so the sale of May Gibbs products have supported thousands and Australian children with disabilities and their families. Royalties from this book goes to Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Northcott Society.

9. The Twelve Days of Christmas (Alison Jay)


It’s a song that must be sung every Christmas, never mind that it makes no sense that a man would give a woman bizarre gifts like geese, milk maids, jumping lords and swans. (The five golden rings of course are not bizarre, that is a dazzling good choice.)

Alison Jay is a graduate of the London College of Printing and a critically acclaimed illustrator of many children’s books. (The Nutcracker, Welcome to the Zoo & Nursery Rhyme Rainbow.) The old style illustrations in this book are simply enchanting, and have been presented in such a way that much of the gifts happen around an ‘olden days’ couple, rather than turning up on her doorstep, so it doesn’t feel so silly, but instead quite beautiful.

10. My Christmas Crackers (Bronwen Davies)


This book contains a host of funny Christmas jokes that are sure to delight any child. My children loved this book last year. (Read about that here) I am positive that it will be a popular book again this year.

Why didn’t the lobster share its toys at Christmas?
Because it was shellfish.

11. Deck the Sheds with Bits of Wattle (Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion)


A hilarious Australian take on Deck the Halls performed by Colin Buchanan and with gorgeous Aussie illustrations by Glen Singleton.

Deck the Shed with bits of wattle,
Whack some gum leaves in a bottle
Syd Echidna’s feeling chipper,
It’s Christmas Eve – my shed’s a ripper.
FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA

 

12. Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker (Gina Newton & Christina Booth)

 

Children’s book character favourite Blossom Possum is involved in a Christmas adventure as she goes along the bush track to find her old friends Rocky Cocky, Echo Gecko and Toey Joey to try to wake Koala Claws so the Bush Christmas is not ruined. They need to find other friends to help and on the way halt By Jingo Dingo from eating a duck. (I feel a bit sorry for the dingo in this book, his family is hungry, and I’m with the dingo on this one, duck really is delicious.) In the end it was lucky they saved the duck (the Christmas Quacker) since it was able to wake Koala Claws and Bush Christmas is saved.
13. One Night (Penny Matthews & Stephen Michael King)

 

On the first Christmas Eve, so the story goes, the animals were given a very special gift to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Since then, at midnight on Christmas Eve the animals remember. A beautiful retelling of an old Christmas folktale. A magical story about how very Christmas Eve at midnight the animals can speak and they relive a Christmas Eve long ago when Jesus was born.

 

14,15. Where’s Santa? and Where’s Santa Around the World? (Louis Shea)

 

These are two wonderful search and find books. I don’t know why boys are particularly attracted to these search and find books, but they are. My boys are no exception, and I blogged about how much the loved these books last year here. These are perfect books for getting children preoccupied with hunting through the colourful images and humorous sub stories to find Santa. Particularly good if you need your children to sit in a corner quietly during a festive occasion!
16. The Busy Christmas Stable

 

This book will be perfect for my three year olds. It’s a robust board book which is sure to entertain with tabs that make animals and people move in the stable throughout the story. A wonderful way to share the story of Jesus’ birth with the little ones.
17. Aussie Jingle Bells (Colin Buchanan and Nick Bland)

 

I absolutely adore this book (and CD) which ought to be no surprise, how could you go wrong with Colin and beloved children’s author Nick Bland? The illustrations are so very Aussie, and it captures a lot of an Aussie larrikan family Chrissy with kids jumping in pools, swinging on clothesline, Grandpa dozing, and driving in a ute on a scorching summers day in singlet, shorts and thongs.
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer’s day, hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.
My particular favourite is that the family packs the car and shoot through before the washing up! (We are all so tempted to do this, are we not?) I’ve actually bought a few copies of this book to send overseas as gifts this year.

18, 19. Thomas and Friends books


These are just little books I have picked up at the supermarket, but nevertheless the children really do love the stories. I mean, you can never go wrong with Thomas, can you?

20. The Nativity (illustrated by Julie Vivas)


The text in this book is straight from the Bible, however the illustrations are in the contemporary style of Julie Vivas. Julie Vivas is became famous when she illustrated Mem Fox’s Possum Magic  in 1983. Since then her illustrations have continue to enchant and delight children. This account of the nativity is no different, the illustrations draw you in and make you examine them carefully and contemplate what life really was like during that first Christmas.

21. We Wish You a Ripper Christmas (Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion)


Yes, I know, another Colin book, but seriously, it’s impossible to overdose on Colin. If you are going on a road trip, it would be an even better reason to own all these books and CD’s (yes, there’s a CD again!) to play throughout the trip while the children delight in the wonderful Aussie illustrations in the back.

OK, so this is the CD for one of the above books and I was too lazy to go and take another photograph, so be inspired anyway. CD’s and road trips, a perfect Christmas combo!

This time the book is illustrated by Roland Harvey and his funny and distinctive Australian flavour.

22. My First Christmas – Magnetic Adventures


This has been a much loved book in our family that I bought quite some time back at our local Koorong. (Brilliant Christian bookstore) I actually need to go hunting a little bit before I put this book out this year because I realised when I unpacked it that the baby Jesus plus Joseph and Mary are missing (and perhaps a few other key characters from the Nativity.) I hope I can find them, because the children adore moving the magnetic characters through the various magnetic scenes and telling the story together.

23. My First Story of Christmas (Tim Dowley)


The Christmas story told in a child friendly manner with cute illustrations.

24. ‘Twas the Night – The Nativity Story (Melody Carlson)


I thought on Christmas Eve it would be good to pause and remember it’s not all about Santa coming, but rather that the arrival of baby Jesus would be the beginning of salvation for mankind. This is a beautiful book and a wonderful retelling of the nativity story to the cadence of “The Night Before Christmas”.

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the stable
Not a creature was stirring, though plenty were able.
The ox and the cow and the goat and the sheep
All comfy and cozy, had drifted to sleep.

A perfect book the night before the big event!

Do you have any favourite Christmas stories/books in your home? Are you counting down the Advent this year and if so how?

I am linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT

* I was gifted some of these books by Scholastic Australia. All opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t make a recommendation unless myself and/or my children enjoyed the books.

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Christmas Books

Christmas books are an excellent opportunity to engage children in literacy and build the expectation and anticipation of Christmas. We have been enjoying several books this Christmas. I thought I might share some with you.

“My Christmas Crackers” by Bronwen Davies
RRP: $9.99
Nov 2013
Scholastic Australia

You would not believe how much my children LOVE this book. I have mentioned before that they enjoy joke books, and this book is pretty well top of the Christmas hits for them! I have read it to them over and over again. (And over, and over….) Thankful Jonty is now starting to read the jokes himself, seeing my reluctant reader open up books and read it by himself, always does my heart good.

He also came up with the brilliant idea of copying some of the jokes onto his Christmas cards when he was writing them out for his classmates. Here he is copying the joke on the back cover:
Q. What do monkeys sing at Christmas time?
A Jungle Bells
I hope the recipient was able to read the yellow texta!

This morning the boys had some friends around, the boys started off the morning with the Christmas Crackers.

“Where’s Santa” is also a big hit in our house. We already had a copy of Where’s Santa from Scholastic book club several years ago. It always gets re-examined at Christmas time. It was very exciting when a Scholastic box arrived in our mailbox with a new “Where’s Santa” by Louis Shea, particularly since this was an “Around the World” edition. Jonty is very interested with all things from other countries, so this was right on his interest level. It’s basically like a “Where’s Wally”, only you are looking for the rosy cheeked fat guy!

Where’s Santa Around The Wrold
RRP $15.99
Publication Date: October
Source: Scholastic Australia

(I noticed recently they were on sale in Myer.)

Recently Uncle Greg came over to babysit. The triplets were already in bed, so it was a pretty easy gig for him. (Especially when our usual escape-artist from the trio emerged from the room, and got such a fright seeing Uncle Greg, he howled and needed a lot of consolation, and then stayed in his bed the rest of the night.

The big boys needed a story read to them before going to bed. The “Where’s Santa books were perfect. Uncle Greg is dyslexic and dreads reading aloud, so he was more than happy to avoid lots of words. In the true style of indulgence that an uncle or aunty does, I think the boys got to examine a lot more pictures in the book than if Mummy was reading. Mind you, Mummy tires of searching for small creatures fairly easily. Daddy is also more patient than Mummy.

I don’t know what it is about the Where Is or Find it books and boys. When I was teaching, I noticed they were always popular with the boys on library days. I know girls like them too, but from my observation, boys are particularly enthusiastic to find things!

Jonty has been getting his eyes checked recently. He doesn’t need prescription glasses at this stage, but it has been recommended he do some eye strengthening exercises. In the list of activities the optometrist gave me, The “Find It” books were listed under Visual Analysis/Visualisation. (To help visual matching, memory and thinking skills.) Check!

Do your children enjoy “Find It” or joke books? Have you got a good Christmas joke that I can pass onto Jonty?

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Reading With One Year Olds

Something I have always been passionate about is writing and literacy. Therefore, I have always made it a priority to read with my children. I always start when they are babies. My babies were all very active, so I have even crawled around after them reading a book and shoving the book under their nose to look at the new illustration in between playing! I found once they were over 12 months old, it got even more fun reading to them because the children had a little more of an attention span and tend to interact even more with the books.

I have three one year olds at the moment and we have been enjoying reading, I thought I would share some of my top tips and book selection for reading within the 12-24 month age group. A lot of this advice can also be applied to babies younger than 12 months also.

1. Read With Animation and Expression.
You might revel in the drama or feel like a goose, but pretend you are an amateur actor as you are reading and use lots of animation and expression in your voice. If you aren’t used to reading like this, do it while no one else is around, and gauge how your child is so much more engaged with the story. You don’t necessarily have to do ‘voices’, sometimes I will to have a little fun, but sometimes I couldn’t be bothered, but I always read with expression. When I was at uni, a lecturer told us that Early Childhood educators should take particular note of how stories are read on Playschool. It’s true. If you read stories dramatically, pausing to create suspense or talking quickly to build momentum, the children will find it much more enjoyable. And importantly, when they start to read themselves, there’s a high likelihood that they will also use expression rather than the beginner reader drone.
2. Choose Books Appropriate For Their Age Group.
If you want your child to enjoy reading, choose the appropriate books. If you read books to your one year old that are to advanced for them, They will most likely lose interest very quickly. You will be fighting an uphill battle. Choose books that do not have lengthy text. Lots of bright illustrations or photos will keep your little one interested. Luckily there are a wealth of books available today that will maintain the interest of a 1 year old. Here are my top suggestions:
Board Books

There is a wide variety of board books, I’ll explain a few in detail below. Board books are excellent for the younger age group as they are so durable. It also makes it easy for children to learn important literacy practises like turning pages. I also teach my children, right from when they are babies, to respect books. That includes not eating them! There are a few bite marks here and there, but for the most part, my children were able to learn that “Books are for eyes, not for mouths.”
One board book that has been a recent favourite in our house is Possum Magic, Animals based on Julie Vivas’s illustrated animals in Mem Fox’s Possum Magic. Having very tactile children, I didn’t think this book would be such a hit, but it absolutely was, by every one year old in the house! They have read it over and over, and as you can see in the picture below, have examined the bright whimsical pictures in great detail.
This is a Scholastic book. It’s released this month at the RRP of $9.95. The triplet’s and I give it a big thumbs up!


Touch and Feel Books
If your children are very active like mine, the touch and feel books will have immediate appeal. It gives the child the opportunity to have tactile stimulation while they listen. We have a wide selection of board books. The “That’s Not My…” series is excellent. The story moves quickly aqnd it is repetitive, a key formula for success in early childhood literacy, and there’s plenty to touch and explore. The baby touch series is also wonderful. We have a few book featuring nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are great for developing literacy in children. They hold the child’s interest and the repetition and rhyming words are super for developing an awareness of words and flow. As I pointed out in my post about Mem Fox’s book, Good Night, Sleep Tight, children who learn at least six nursery rhymes by the age of four will normally be in the top reading group by the age of 8. We also have some board books with simplified versions of fairy tales. (See three little pigs below) This is a great introductory way to introduce children to these well loved classics. The Book Depository has a great selection of touch and feel fairy tales. See here.

Toby enjoying touch and feel books. Toby is the most active of the triplets, so touch and feel books are his favourite as he needs to do something with his hands and only has a short attention span.
Lift the Flap
Another good book selection is lift the flap books. The “Spot” (The Dog) books are great examples. I would recommend these books once your child is over 18 months, because even when made of sturdy paper, they do have a tendency to tear. Even the board book lift the flap books have cardboard flaps, so I normally reserve these books as books to be read with an adult. That way you can teach them how lift them gently and carefully and how to put them back down before turning the page. 
Jayden reading the Spot books. Toby reading a lift the flap board book from the “Peekaboo” series. (I bought them at a Learning Ladder party.) These book has been a favourite or all five kids.
Word Books
I’m not entirely sure what to call these books, but they are plentiful. These are the books that have a whole heap of photos with words next to them. When I first had kids I thought they were a bit pointless and boring. The reality is the kids love them and it is EXCELLENT for language development. You can get them on all manner of topics – fruit, body, babies, farms, animals, etc. My kids have a very battered and bruised one on farms (it’s also a flap book) that has been much loved. In the picture below Jayden is holding the current favourite. We have three in this series. (I got them cheap at QBD) Unfortunately they all tend to like the book with the picture of a tractor on it. So there are fisty cuffs in the pursuit of this book. There’s another book with some pictures of motorbikes which also catches Jayden’s interest. He is mad about motorbikes right now. Books with pages with fruit on it are always popular and pictures of babies. 

Don’t they look like two little old men? You can tell that Jayden has a better attention span then Toby! I can see them in their armchairs reading the papers together when they are 50!

Big Kid Books
Don’t feel you should only read board books to your toddler. There are plenty of books that are short enough to maintain a small child’s interest. And if you are holding the book while you are read, it normally remains safe.

A good example of a perfect big kids book that the triplets enjoyed reading is Ruth Paul’s My Dinosaur Dad. The text is full of descriptive words about Dads and has a cuddly finish. (Sorry for the spoiler)

Imogen reading  the end of “My Dinosaur Dad”.

 The illustrations are so bright and vivid. The kids love examining it. The pages are actually quite thick card, so now that the triplets are getting close to being two (Yikes!) I’m happy for them to start learning to turn paper pages with a book like this. It’s a good springboard for discussing what makes the child’s Dad special. The perfect book prior to Father’s Day. Trent and Jonty also loved this one, so they came up with their own words for Daddy – scratchy, fast, normal sized and cuddly.

The book was released by Scholastic NZ. It’s RRP is $15.99 and the publication date is Aug. 2013.

Wow – what HUGE dinosaurs!

3. Join in Read Aloud’s With Others
Now I’m going to contradict what I have said above! Yes, it’s so important to choose age appropriate books. However, don’t let that stop you! If you are reading a longer story with more complex themes to your older children and your 1 year old wanders over. Join the toddler in! You don’t want your younger child to think they are excluded from some reading experiences. If they lose interest, don’t press the issue too much since it’s advanced literature for a toddler. Sometimes, it’s got nothing to do with the literacy. Sometimes children just love the emotional security of hearing a grown-up read. Also, your 1 year old is probably going to be read longer stories in playgroup or other settings, so it’s good practice for them.

Miss Rachael with Trent, Toby and Immy reading a childhood classic, “The Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. 

I hope this gives you some inspiration for reading with your babies and toddlers – especially your one year olds! Reading is such an important skill, and reading aloud can help your child learn to read years before they learn any letters!

What books do you recommend for toddlers? (Book types or titles)

** I have not been paid for this post. I was sent “My Dinosaur Dad” and “Possum Magic Animals” from Scholastic, but was under no obligation to write about them, but did so because they are awesome. All opinions are my own.

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Good Night Sleep Tight

Back in my teaching days, by far the most outstanding professional development workshop I went to was presented by Mem Fox. She was an absolutely charming presenter, full of helpful advice, (from her own days of teaching and her experience as a children’s writer), funny stories and anecdotes. But the most overwhelming emotion I walked away from the seminar that day was with an increased passion for quality literature and reading aloud to children.

I had already long been a fan of Mem Fox’s children’s books. I had also read her book for adults, “Reading Magic”. (Which is well worth a read if you want to also be inspired by the importance of reading aloud to your child and how to do it well.) But it is always so inspiring when you listen to someone who is eloquent and passionate about their topic.

When I was contacted and given a copy of her latest book, (although, if you read here you’ll discover she actually wrote this story awhile back), I was very enthusiastic to host a giveaway.

I was thrilled, upon reading the book, that “Good Night, Sleep Tight” contains well loved nursery rhymes. When I was teaching early childhood, I was often astonished how many children were not familiar with popular nursery rhymes and fairytales. After all, these classics are often early literacy at its best. Mem wrote this book, in response to a statistic stating that, “Children who know six nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four are usually in the top reading group by the age of eight.” So, to be on the safe side, “Good Night, Sleep Tight” contains seven rhymes. I think that statistic alone encourages me to keep reading this story, many, many more times!

“Good Night, Sleep Tight”, is full of Mem Fox and Judy Horacek magic. Bonnie and Ben are being put to bed by their very attentive favourite babysitter. He tells them a series of nursery rhymes that his mother taught him before insisting that they go to sleep. It is a story small children find compelling, full of repetition and bright colourful illustrations that capture the imagination. My own children have loved it, especially T-Star, who insisted I read it again immediately after I finish. The first time I read it to him, I continued to read it to him four times consecutively. (The only reason it wasn’t a read a fifth time was entirely to do with me declining the opportunity to do so.)

J Boy has been particularly interested in the prospect of giving away THREE copies of this book. He has accepted the position to be the official judge deciding who the books will be given too.

The judge and his sidekick.

So, if you would like to have a little fun and win a copy of “Good Night, Sleep Tight”, write us a rhyme telling my six year old something (it can be anything!) you have learned from your mother, or in the words of Skinny Doug, “I’ll tell you another I heard from my mother”. It need not be long, 2-4 lines should be sufficient, but it must be appealing to a six year old boy! Make sure you let me know your email address, so I can contact the winners on the 23rd of January. If I get no reply from you, I will choose another winner the next day. You must have an Australian mailing address in order to win.
***NB. This competition is now over.

And the back cover!
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