I have a confession. I love book lists. I love reading these lists, all of them in their varied forms: 100 Classics to Read Before You Die, Best Books to Read on the Beach, Top 25 Books for Teenagers -- and it goes on.
That’s right -- I find great enjoyment in reading lists of book titles and scrutinizing what books were included and excluded. I even have several books filled with book lists. Recently, my favorite book lists have to do with books that make great read-alouds. At the beginning of the school year, teachers shared with you a list of books for you to read aloud with your children. All of the books on the list were recommended by Sarah Mackenzie, author of The Read Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids (complete with lots of book lists). I read this book last spring, and I highly recommend it. Mackenzie also hosts a weekly podcast, "Read Aloud Revival," which I enjoy as the main topic is book lists.
At the Rodriguez household, we have a basket of Christmas books that come out of storage right after Thanksgiving. Every year, I buy a few more (always-used!) Christmas books, wrap them, and Sam and Ellie get to open them each week in Advent. When selecting books for the Christmas book basket, I mainly focus on books that are best when read aloud and shared together. There is the occasional exception -- a book that is best read alone -- but my goal is a shared experience with my kids and books.
This Christmas season, I want to encourage you to start a new tradition in your home of spending time reading aloud to your children. Listening to quality literature has numerous benefits, including increased vocabulary, exposure to literature at a higher reading level, hearing proper inflection and phrasing, and instilling a love of story in young hearts. Children who are independent readers still love being read to, even teenagers! It is like salve for the soul. And, the best part is that reading aloud to your children is a free way to create lasting memories as a family.
What books are good fits for reading aloud? Books that are told simply, and told well. Books that use rich and well-crafted language. Books that pique listeners' curiosity and stimulate imagination.
Wondering where to start? I’m including here a few titles from our Christmas book basket, as well as newly recommended books (and audio books) especially for Christmas from Sarah Mackenzie. (Take a look at her blogfor a complete Christmas read-aloud list, including a complete list of Christmas picture books.)
Merry Christmas, and happy reading!
Amanda Rodriguez | Dean of Academics & Curriculum
Bartholomew’s Passage: A Family Story for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide(best for ages 7 and up)
Ishtar’s Odyssey: A Family Story for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide (best for ages 7 and up)
Tabitha’s Travels: A Family Story for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide (best for ages 7 and up)
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig (best for ages 9-14, and Roald Dahl fans; also recommended for audio)
Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (from Where the Wild Things Are fame; best for ages 4 and up, it’s a crowd-pleaser!)
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (best for all ages; also recommended for audio)
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumor Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (best for all ages)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illustrated by P.J. Lynch (best for ages 9 and up; also recommended for audio)
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger (best for ages 6 and up; great for audio too!)
I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge, illustrated by Margot Tomes(best for ages 7 and up)
More Titles from the Rodriguez Christmas Book Basket:
The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren (of Pippi Longstocking fame; best for ages 6 and up)
The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder (divided into 24 chapters for Advent, best for ages 7 and up)
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke (best for ages 5 and up)
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien (a collection of the letters Tolkien wrote to his own children from Santa; best for all ages)
Behold that Star: A Christmas Anthology (a collection of short stories; best for ages 7 and up)
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry (a picture book; best for ages 3 and up)
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren (of Pippi Longstocking fame; a picture book; best for ages 3 and up)
The Stable Rat and Other Christmas Poems by Julia Cunningham, illustrated by Anita Lobel (wonderful pictures; best for ages 4 and up)
The Treasure is a Rose by Julia Cunningham (a medieval story; best for ages 7 and up)
(Age suggestions are simply suggestions. I recommend pre-reading as much as possible before sharing a book with children.)