Thursday, November 19, 2015

Christmas & Advent Reads for the 6-and-under Crowd

I know, I know, the internet is bursting with book lists for Christmas and Advent... What's one more? I'm always finding tons of great ideas, but a lot of them are long. Too long for me to read aloud with a fussy baby grabbing at the pages and kids who want me to sit and read them an entire stack one after the other! 

So if you're in the same boat with lots of littles, or are just starting out reading to your baby or toddler, hopefully this will be a good list to get you started with some of our Christmas & Advent favorites!

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Daily Reads:

Advent Storybook - John Paul and Cecilia LOVED this last year - we would read a story every day after snack as part of our morning ritual, and I'm looking forward to reading it with them and the twins this year.

The Story of Christmas - This is a set of 24 ornament-sized books that tells the story of Christmas a little bit at a time, one per day. We like to light the candle on the Advent wreath, pray together, read the book for that day, and then sing a verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel every morning.


Board Books for Babies:

My First Pictures of Christmas - The Maite Roche books are always a hit with my babies - perfect for taking to Mass and whispering the words in their ears while pointing to the pictures.

A Peek-a-boo Christmas - This always gets HUGE smiles from my babies and toddlers when they "find" baby Jesus at the end! I would not recommend bring it to Mass, though, unless you want to deal with some very loud "PEEK-a-boo!" squeals.

The Story of Christmas - The text isn't anything to write home about, but for some reason all my kids adore this series of books with the handle and the old fashioned illustrations.

Jesus in the Manger - Another Maite Roche book, this one with sturdy flaps to lift!

Christmas in the Manger - This is one that I tend to gift to new parents a lot! Short board book with a basic introduction to all the "key players" of the Christmas story, but with a good rhyme scheme so it's a little more interesting to read. All my babies and toddlers have loved it!

Short & Sweet for the Youngest Ears:

Room for a Little One - this is one that always gets a happy sigh at the end from all listeners - different animals take shelter together on a cold winter night, eventually welcoming the baby Jesus

An Angel Came to Nazareth (The First Christmas) - beautiful illustrations, flowing text, good lesson of 

Who is Coming to Our House - one of my absolute favorites! Beautiful woodcut illustrations, rhyming & short text, another calming story that's especially good for toddlers who love animals

The Stable Where Jesus Was Born - "Cumulative Rhyme" is a new phrase for me but it totally makes sense with the order of this book, where each page builds on the last in a repetitive (but not tiresome) rhyming nativity story.

A Little Longer for Better Listeners:

Lift the Flap Nativity - The actual text on the pages can get long, but there are so many flaps and the pictures are so detailed that my little ones are happy to sit still for a while with this one.

Mortimer's Christmas Manger - This one is new to us but I love it! The kids are all big fans of Jane Chapman & Karma Wilson, and while this doesn't have the usual rhythm of their books, the story is so very sweet. Mortimer the Mouse finds a new home in a nativity, then realizes the stable he's worked so hard to clear of all those pesky figurines is where the poor cold baby Jesus needs to sleep!

The First Night - Very short text, beautiful paintings on wood panels.

The Animals' Christmas Eve - If you want to be technical, I suppose this is a counting book... But the rhyme scheme is so nice and I like the illustrations (even though several reviewers prefer the originals) - it's always highly requested at our house, and I'm pretty sure I have the entire thing memorized!

The Friendly Beasts - I love this carol, maybe because I sang it so much as a small child? It's lovely, and my kids love singing along with the book.

Bethlehem - I love the stained glass illustrations, and the fact that the text is straight out of the Bible!

The Little Drummer Boy - This is a classic, and our board book version is great for younger kids also but if you're going to be singing it, you need kids who are a little bit better listeners - it's a SLOW song and can take a while to read!



Even Longer Picture Books (for kids who will sit still):

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - This is new for us this year and comes highly recommended by basically every person I know! 

Angela and the Baby Jesus - My sister got this for us last year and Cecilia especially loves it! It's always fun to have the chance to try out an Irish brogue when we read it aloud, also.

The Legend of St. Nicholas - We love Demi's style, even though this one always makes me chuckle when we read about what a very pious baby young St. Nicholas was (he FASTED as an infant! Like, refused to nurse because he was so holy!). Definitely on the longer side, but I think we'll just be spending a lot of time reading on St. Nicholas' feast day

The Miracle of St. Nicholas - This one isn't exactly a story of St. Nicholas, but rather a lovely story of enduring faith amidst the persecutions in Russia long ago. On the long side, but wonderful!

The Clown of God - A new find for us, we were all rather taken aback by the ending! Maybe not for sensitive children, but a really nice story that can be read throughout the year as well.

Joy to the World (Including Las Posadas, The Legend of the Poinsettia, and The Three Wise Kings) - If you're a Tomie DePaola fan, this is a must-have! Three books in one, plus several Christmas songs in a beautiful cover. This is another one that I like to gift to friends.

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona - I'd seen this one recommended by quite a few people and was skeptical, because how could Strega Nona make a good Christmas story? But it really is wonderful, and who would have thought Big Anthony could finally come through!

The Christmas Story - Only available used, but I think just having that much sacred art in one book is worth tracking it down!

The Lady of Guadalupe - I'm trying to track down a reasonably priced copy of this one... We get it from the library every year when the feasts of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe come around in December, but the kids love it so much I want our own! Definitely worth checking out if your library has it.

Chapter Books & Longer Read-Alouds:

I'm pretty sure my mom has a copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which I got a kick out of reading as a kid, and I'm pretty sure John Paul and Cecilia will really enjoy as well.

The Family Under the Bridge comes highly recommended from several sources as an excellent Advent/Christmas read aloud, and I'm really looking forward to reading it with the older kids - only 9 chapters, so we should get through it pretty quickly.

I toyed with just picking the specific Christmas chapters out of our Little House books, but I know Cecilia especially will really enjoy reading through A Little House Christmas Treasury and I think one story each evening will make a nice read aloud time. I think I'll also get Christmas in the Big Woods for the twins - they haven't heard the entirety of the series, but they love the picture books, and should be ready for longer chapter books soon.

What would you add? What are your Christmas favorites? I'd love to hear more recommendations!

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