My daughter is now 8, and she is a very fluent reader. Very often I hear the same question, What did you do with her when she was little? Well, we read a lot, and I maintained a diary of our reading activities in weekly What My Child Is Reading entries in my blog. I decided to make these reading diaries more useful and create a new series on my blog where I will share our best books for each month for ages 3, 4, 5, and 6. Moreover, I will pair each book with an extension activity – sometimes with ours and sometimes with activities from my creative friends from Kid Blogger Network. For the month of December I decided to focus specifically on the holidays that our family celebrates during this month – Christmas and Hanukkah. In this post I am featuring books that we read in December 2010 when Smarty was 4.
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1. A Baby Born in BethlehemWe are a secular family, but we want our daughter to understand and respect religious beliefs of others. This is why our Christmas reading always include some books that focus on Christ’s birth. A Baby Born in Bethelehem is a book from our own library, and we always pull it out before Christmas. I like that Martha Whitmore Hickman stayed very close to the Biblical account, and my daughter enjoy dreamy illustrations by Giuliano Ferri. Usually, we play Nativity story with Smarty reenacting her favorite parts of the story (she loves the visit from Three Wise Kings, because they bring presents).
2. The Littlest Christmas Tree
In comparison, The Littlest Christmas Tree by R.A. Herman is a very secular book. The tiny tree wishes for someone to take it home and decorate it. However, the time is ticking away, and nobody is interested. The cover sort of gives away the happy ending of this warm story beautifully illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers. Any craft involving mini Christmas trees (pinecone trees, pipecleaner trees, etc.) will work, but this paper plate laced Christmas tree from I Heart Crafty Things looks beautiful and requires lacing – great fine motor practice for those preschool fingers!
3. Let It Snow (Toot and Puddle)
My daughter enjoyed all Toot & Puddle books by Holly Hobbie, and she absolutely loved Let It Snow. Two great friends are together again and trying to find a perfect present for each other. They put both thought and effort into selecting their gifts – a great lesson for my daughter who even now thinks that she can “whip up” a good gift in 15 minutes. There is also a good discussion about special meaning of homemade gifts in this book, and a good extension activity would be to make some homemade gifts. My daughter at that age was more interested in “practical” gifts than in artwork gifts, and in her preschool they made a scrub similar to this lemon-lime sugar scrub gift from Classy Clutter. Adventures in Wunderland has a wonderful roundup of gifts in a jar – making any of them would be a great joint activity for parents and their older preschoolers.
4. The Baker’s Dozen
Since my husband is German, Smarty is lucky to celebrate St Nicholas Day on December 6. According to Northern European tradition, the original St Nick is visiting children on December 6 bringing sweets. The Baker’s Dozen book moves action to colonial times of Albany, New York and introduces us to a baker who is very prosperous and exact in his dealings. However, he lacks generosity and never gives his customers anything extra. His luck changes when a mysterious visitor asks for 13 cookies for the price of 12, and the baker refuses. The story is somewhat long for youngest readers, but the illustrations by Wendy Edelson are gorgeous and can be admired for a long time. An obvious extension activity for this book is making cookies, especially iced cookies. This particular edition of the book comes with a recipe and a pattern for St Nicholas cookie. There are so many yummy cookie options to choose from in this gorgeous Christmas Cookies round up from Kids Activities Blog.
5. The Nutcracker Ballet
Now moving on to my own childhood tradition from the former Soviet Union – watching The Nutcracker ballet either on TV or live in our Opera and Ballet Theater in my native Minsk. I took Smarty to see The Nutcracker for the first time when she was 4, and we’ve been going every year since. I already have tickets for our visit this year. Every year we read The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin. I have to admit that the story described in the book is based, I think, on specific Russian production, since San Jose ballet has a completely different story line. Thankfully, the music is still the same, and discussing different takes on the music gets more interested every year as daughter is better able to appreciate the details in the costumes and choreography. Ballet itself is our “extension activity” for this book, but you could listen to it on CD while making this easy clothespin Nutcracker craft from Crafty Morning.
6. Light the Lights!I am half Jewish, and we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our house, both with emphasis on family and friends and not on religion. Light the Lights! is a book that could be written about our family. There is no suspense in the book, just a look at normal family life from a child narrator’s point of view. Growing in the country where both holidays were “discouraged”, it’s reassuring to know that we live in a society where different traditions and blended traditions are accepted as normal. My daughter is equally excited about Hanukkah and Christmas and is hoping that this year she is entrusted to light the candles on the menorah independently. When she was 4, she designed and build this craft stick menorah completely on her own.
More December Books Recommendations
- Winter Holiday Books for 2 and 3 Year Olds
- Winter Holiday Books for 5 Year Olds
- Winter Holiday Books for Kids Age 6+
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