5 Holiday Picture Books to Share in December

There is no denying that holiday hysteria is making its way into our classrooms. The kids are overtired and excited all at the same time. Days like these call for a holiday read aloud to remind us of the essential meaning of the winter holidays.

Reading holiday books with students can get tricky for public school teachers. In an article published on Edutopia, music teacher Peter Siegel disagrees. Siegel explains that comparative exploration of the holidays meets curriculum standards and keeps parents satisfied. “Parents seem to understand that teaching about the commonalities in holiday stories reinforces cultural understanding.”

By reading and comparing books, you can help your students notice themes in tradition, generosity, family, friendship, and the magic of the holidays.

Here are 5 Books to Share and Paired Lesson Plan Ideas For This Holiday Season:

One Candle by Eve Bunting

The cover for the book One Candle

This story gently informs young readers about the importance of celebrating tradition. Grandma and Great Aunt Rose remember a secret Hanukkah celebration they held when they were in a concentration camp.

The religious tradition of lighting a candle brought them great comfort and hope. Their recounting of the ritual reminds the family how brave their grandmother and great-aunt were and how important it is to honor the tradition of lighting the candle.

Engage readers and deepen comprehension with the BookPagez lesson plans and teaching resources designed to encourage readers to ask questions and make text-to-self connections while reading One Candle. The resource set also includes an extension activity that invites children to share a family tradition and consider what makes the tradition meaningful.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The cover for the book The Polar Express

Magic is inspiring. By sharing The Polar Express with your students, you'll invite them to imagine, wonder and believe. Chris Van Allsburg's classic Christmas story reminds us how much children want to hold onto the magic of the holiday.

Further explore the story by using the lesson plans and teaching resources for use with The Polar Express to deepen comprehension by using the book as a springboard for visualizing, retelling, predicting, and synthesizing instruction. Then have some fun with the included extension activity by challenging students to generate as many adjectives as they can to describe the winter holidays.

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky

The Great Spruce by Jon Duvall

This is the story of a boy named Alec. Alec loves trees - apple trees, climbing trees, but most of all - his grandfather's great spruce tree. Unfortunately, Alec isn't the only one who loves the great spruce. People in his town want to cut the tree down and decorate it for the town's Christmas celebration. What will Alec do to save the Great Spruce? How will he stop strangers from hurting his tree? This book encourages children to make predictions and text-to-self connections.

If you're looking for a new way to introduce books prior to your read aloud, try using book trailers. Here's the book trailer for The Great Spruce.

Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown

The cover for the book Hanukkah in Alaska

Why do children in Alaska go to school when it is dark? Why do they hug trees every time a Moose lumbers by? Why does the Alaskan sky light up in beautiful colors of orange, pink, and purple? What are latkes? These are the questions children will organically ask when reading Hanukkah in Alaska.

If you don't have this book, you can access it through a read-aloud video link below. Try pausing the video to stop at points of interest that make children wonder. Give students time to turn and talk about the story. Then use the research guides from BookPagez to discover more about Alaska and Hanukkah.

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