Elementary kids love listening to stories, so books are a great way to teach literacy AND celebrate the holiday season. Using holiday read-alouds in lessons (or just for fun) is a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays without losing instructional time and spend quality time with your kiddos. Keep reading for 10 holiday read-alouds that you and your elementary kids will enjoy!
Wonderful Holiday Read-Alouds
This Dr. Seuss book is a Christmas classic – and for good reason! It tells the story of the Grinch, who hates Christmas. He decides to try to ruin Christmas for the Whos, the folk who live in the town at the bottom of his mountain. However, when the Whos continue to celebrate despite his sabotage, he discovers that maybe thereis more to Christmas…and to himself. Funny, full of great rhymes, and a lovely story of transformation. In addition, there are two movie versions of The Grinch (one cartoon and one live action) that you can watch with your kids after reading the book.
2. The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen wrote many wonderful fairy tales, and The Fir Tree is no exception. The main character, a little fir tree, grows up always wanting what’s next – to be bigger so the birds will sit in his branches, to be cut down as a Christmas tree, to have the children get the presents from him – and thus fails to appreciate what he has at each step of the way. This story teaches the valuable lesson to enjoy what you have and to focus on the present.
This classic poem still delights young listeners and captures the magic of the season. It tells the story of what happens on Christmas Eve through lyrical, rhyming language. The Night Before Christmas works well as part of a poetry unit, or in a lesson on word choice.
4. Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein by Amanda Peet and and Andrea Troyer
This book demonstrates a wonderful blend of Jewish and Christian holiday traditions. Rachel Rosenstein’s family is the only one on her street that does not celebrate Christmas, which makes Rachel sad. She desperately wants Santa to come to her house, so she does everything she can think of – sends him letters, visits him at the mall, decorates her house. In the end, Rachel ends up learning more about her own identity and appreciating the people who love her. This is a great story for kids to hear, especially for those who feel left out for not celebrating Christmas.
This true story from author and veterinarian James Herriot is both heartwarming and entertaining. He tells about how a strong-willed stray cat befriended a woman and her three Bassett hounds at Christmastime. This is a great story for animal lovers, and will get everyone into the holiday spirit.
While not specifically about the holidays, this winter tale makes for a wonderful read aloud during this season. When Nick accidentally drops his white mitten in the snow, a variety of animals get inside it to keep warm…until one of them sneezes! As the book tells the story of the animals, the pictures on the side continue to show what happens with Nick. The high-quality, highly detailed illustrations add so much to the plot, which is engaging on its own. Kids are sure to love this one!
Most elementary kids love Pete the Cat books, so they will enjoy hearing a Christmas story about Pete! This book parodies the “12 Days of Christmas” song in Pete the Cat style. Although it gets a bit repetitive (as the song does), the repetition allows for kids to participate as the book goes on. In addition, the illustrations are funny and informative. This would also be a great book to help teach counting (especially backwards).
The Polar Express is another classic that all kids should hear at some point. It tells the story of a boy who gets to ride the Polar Express to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. He is chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas and choose a silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. Even though he loses it on his ride home, he finds the bell wrapped under his tree on Christmas morning. This book is a lovely story about the power of belief and the Christmas spirit. There is also a movie version that you could watch with your kids after reading the book.
This book tells the story of seven brothers. The brothers do nothing but argue with each other. Then, their father dies. In order to receive their inheritance, the brothers must work together to turn seven spools of thread into gold, otherwise all their father’s money and property will be given away to the poor. This fable-like story is engaging, instructive, and has beautiful illustrations. It also demonstrates the seven principles of Kwanza: unity, self-determination, collective work & responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Seven Spools of Thread is a great read aloud, especially if you want to teach your class more about Kwanza.
This creative and humorous rendition of “I Know an Old Lady” is sure to entertain. It begins with an old lady who swallows a dreidel, and she then proceeds to swallow many other Hannukah-related items. The rhymes are fabulous, and the story ends well (the grandma survives!). Furthermore, the illustrations are all parodies of famous paintings, which provides plenty of fodder for discussion.
These holiday read-alouds are a great way to celebrate the holiday season with your elementary kids. If you have any other great holiday read-alouds to recommend, please leave a comment below or send me an email!