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24 Great Children's Books for a Christmas Advent Countdown
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12 Christian Christmas books
What you'll need to start this great tradition:
- 24 Christmas Books (see recommended list below!)
- Wrapping paper (optional)
- Basket for holding all the books
Wrapping the gifts is optional. It can be just as fun to have a basket of unwrapped Christmas books under the tree that you kids can grab books from at anytime. The focus here is more the time spent together, so do whatever gets your family excited to sit down and read together each night (a tradition you can carry on long after Christmas!).
The other thing you will need to decide is if you'd like to buy new Christmas books each year or reuse the same classics. Books are never a bad investment for your kids, but sometimes there just isn't the money in the budget!
Here are some cost saving ideas:
- Starting in January, buy 2 books a month. Some great online stores for books are listed below, but check out thrift shops and used book stores too!
- Make use of your local library, taking out a weeks worth of books at a time. A weekly library visit is a good idea year round!
- Exchange with friends. If you have a friend who is also interested in a book advent countdown, you could each get 12 books and exchange them halfway through -OR- you could get 2 different 24 book sets and exchange them each year!
Recommended Book List
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree - Gloria Houston
One of my favourite books on this list. One of the Amazon comments compares it to the emotions a mother feels when reading Munsch's I Love You Forever, and it's definitely true. A heartwarming story of a mothers work to ensure her daughter and town have the Christmas they desire, even though her husband still hasn't returned home from the war. Meant for young school age children, this book will be a classic in your home for years and years!
The Story of Holly and Ivy - Rumer Godden
Christmas miracles abound when Holly, a young orphan looking for a family to love her, and Ivy a little doll looking for an owner, finally find what they are looking for. Truths about the importance of family and love make this a perfect Christmas tale.
The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
We watch the movie every year at our house, but the book and it's illustrations are not to be missed either! One of the best 'Santa' stories I've seen that isn't all about getting more stuff.
Nutcracker - ETA Hoffman
Classic Christmas story (and a beautiful ballet!). Another one that is available in a number of formats for different ages, including the picture book shown to the right.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss
The movie may be a little scary in parts for little ones, but the book is a great addition to any Christmas shelf. The idea that sharing together at Christmas can warm even the coldest heart is a great lesson to learn!
A Charlie Brown Christmas - Charles M. Schulz
The Classic Story of Charlie Brown and his friends discovering the real meaning of Christmas, through the rescue of an unwanted Christmas Tree, preparations for the Christmas pageant, and time spent with friends. Get a copy of the movie and read along while you watch!
Night Tree - Eve Bunting
One of my favourite Christmas stories. Read along as a family prepares decorations made of food and ventures into the forest to decorate a tree for the animals to enjoy. Set aside an afternoon to read the book, craft some popcorn strings, bird seed ornaments and hanging oranges and then hike outside with the family (even to your own backyard) to decorate a tree.
Peef: The Christmas Bear - Tom Hegg
A small bear crafted by Santa himself yearns to find a small child to love him, but Santa resists parting with the little bear he loves. Eventually Santa decides to give the bear away, sacrificing his own happiness for anothers, but learns that giving really gives more joy than anything else.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson
Available in picture book and novel form for older children, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever tells the story of a small church pageant that is taken over by the Herdman's, who have never seen or heard the Christmas story before. Antics ensue, and it's sure to be the most unique (and maybe the best!) Christmas pageant anyone at the church has ever seen. Great story about how much more important drawing together as a community is than having every ritual performed perfectly.
Max's Christmas - Rosemary Wells
Max wants to stay up late Christmas Eve to see Santa arrive, but big sister Ruby won't let him. So Max sneaks downstairs later and watches on his own. Will Santa still arrive with someone watching? Max and Ruby can also be seen on TV's Treehouse Channel (in Canada at least!).
The Littlest Christmas Tree - Janie Jasin
All of your littles with love this story about a small Christmas tree who waits and worries that it will never be chosen as Christmas approaches. On Christmas Eve, the Littlest Christmas Tree finally finds someone who takes him home and decorates him lovingly. A great read for toddlers and preschoolers and good for early readers too!
Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad - Mercer Mayer
Many of you may recognize these Little Critter books from your own childhood! Love this little story about a little critter who wants to help make Christmas special for his family but ends up getting tangled (literally!) time after time.
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
Linked below is an illustrated version of the original story, but you can also find retellings of the Scrooge story with many children's Characters (Mickey Mouse comes to mind). Definitely a great one for older children.
Merry Christmas Curious George - H.A. Rey
George gets carried away in a Christmas tree and gets to bring some holiday cheer to children in a children's hospital and meet the big red guy himself!
Merry Christmas Grumpy Bunny - Justine Korman
Grumpy Bunny thinks that no one sees the effort he makes all year, but he discovers that Santa sees all of his hard work, and rewards him with his hearts desire. I usually add in "and Mommy and Daddy" when it talks about only Santa seeing the good things we do, but otherwise a great little story!
The Snowbelly Family of Chillyville Inn - Cheryl Hawkinson
Cheryl Hawkinson is a Hallmark writer, and she's made a beautiful series of books about snowmen. Any one of them would be a great addition to your Christmas book list, but my Daughter and I love this one the most. Similar in rhyme to the Night Before Christmas poem, although I find the extra lines added to the rhyme a little awkward sometimes.
Treasure for Lunch - Shenaaz Nanji
Not a 'Christmas' book per say, but a great winter story about a young girl who tries to hide her culture from the other children, but ends up being embraced even more when they discover her hidden lunch in the snow!
The Night Before Christmas - Clement C. Moore
What would a Christmas countdown be without the Night Before Christmas? Great to read on Christmas Eve, especially for encouraging little ones to GET. IN. BED! Eventually the kids will know it well enough to recite it without the book!
The Jolly Christmas Postman - Allan Ahlberg
Based on the popular British book The Jolly Postman, this interactive book has the postman delivering Christmas cards to a variety of fairy tale characters. Pages contain real envelops that kids can take the letters out of. Been around for a while and still a great, entertaining read for kids!
The Mitten - Jan Brett
A boy's lost mitten provides some winter warmth to a mole, a rabbit, a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, a fox, a bear, and then a little tiny mouse (all at once!) before a big sneeze scatters all over the forest floor. The animals all make room and share the space in this lovely winter classic (not Christmas themed though).
A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree - Colleen Munroe
A Christmas tree's forest friends help him to see that being passed over for Christmas isn't a bad thing - it means he is appreciated and enjoyed all year long instead of for a few short weeks at Christmas.
Snowmen at Christmas - Caralyn Buehner
All kids love finding out what happens after they go to bed, and they will love reading this beautifully illustrated story about the snowmen families that gather in the town square to sing, celebrate and see Santa!
Bear Stays Up for Christmas - Karma Wilson
One of my favourite things about all of these Christmas books is the lessons they share about what the real meaning of Christmas is. This book is no exception, with bear learning through his friends that giving is the most important thing of all!
The Spirit of Christmas - Nancy Tillman
We got a copy of On the Night You Were Born when our daughter was born and it has always been a favourite of mine. I was so happy to find a Christmas themed book by the same author. Her illustrations are just beautiful, and the words are lyrical and written in the same rhyme as the Night Before Christmas.
Bonus Books (More Christmas activities than reading):
Can You See What I See?: The Night Before Christmas - Walter Wick
I Spy Christmas: A Book of Picture Riddles - Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick
Search and find books that your kids will love all season long!