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Top 10 Holiday Read-Alouds

By Brian Smith on December 22, 2014
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

The end of a calendar year brings top ten lists that cover everything from songs and movies, to children's names and fashion fads. Here is my list of the top ten holiday read-alouds.







How Santa Got His Job Cover10. How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky

This book is Santa’s backstory. After lots of research, Stephen Krensky has blown the cover off of how Santa learned all the skills that the jolly, bearded man would need to become the Santa that we know and love today. While reading this book, I love watching the kids’ eyes light up as they realize how each job helps him become Santa. There are lots of places for students to make inferences and predictions while you read this well-thought-out story.


The Twelve Cats of Christmas9. The Twelve Cats of Christmas by Kevin Whitlark

This is a hilarious take on the Christmas classic, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Your kids will laugh out loud as you sing this silly version's alliterations. Every year, my kids love singing along, especially with “Five Goldfish.”





The Sound of Kwanzaa Cover

8. The Sounds of Kwanzaa by Dimitrea Tokunbo

“Come close, gather round. Listen to the sound of Kwanzaa,” is how each page of this colorful book begins. It explains the meaning of each of the seven candles, which represent the seven guiding principles that Kwanzaa celebrates. The book also includes a very informative author’s note and bibliography for those who want to read more about the celebration.


There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell Cover7. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell! by Lucille Colandro

We all get hungry from time to time but this old lady is not only crazy hungry, she is also adored by all who read about her. What will she be swallowing next? This entry into the series ends with Santa and old lady flying off on a loaded sleigh and wishing “Happy Holidays to all!”





Hoppy Hanukkah Cover6. Hoppy Hanukkah! by Linda Glaser

This is the cutest little book about a bunny family and all of their Hanukkah traditions. The reader is introduced to the menorah, potato latkes, the dreidel, and Hanukkah presents along with the bunny family babies, Simon and Violet. The author conveys the importance of these traditions in a very kid-friendly manner. 




Jingle Bells Cover5. Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani

This book made it into my top five because it’s a wonderful introduction to how other cultures around the world celebrate the holidays. On the third page you read, “See and compare how other countries celebrate the Christmas season there.” You travel to Mexico, Sweden, the Philippines, Poland, Italy, and Kenya in short, informative stanzas and detailed pictures. After the story there is a page that goes more in-depth about each country's tradition.





Pete the Cat Saves Christmas Cover4. Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin

Kids love Christmas and Pete the Cat, so what’s not to love about this book? There is the catchy Pete the Cat refrain (my kids are still singing, “My buttons, my buttons, my four groovy buttons” from when we read Pete the Cat and the Four Groovy Buttons in September) that we all have come to expect from Pete. The message that no matter how big or small you are, you can still make a difference is a great main idea and an added bonus to this groovy Christmas story.




Bear Stays Up for Christmas Cover3. Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

I love books with big characters and big voices. I absolutely adore this book because it’s the opposite of those things. Karma Wilson’s Bear series is a loveable collection that we visit throughout the year, but this book in particular has a quietness about it that makes you feel like you need to read it in a whisper. The spirit of the season has a strong presence in this beautiful book. The kids are immediately hooked because they know Bear from other books and they love for me to stop reading and let them chorus in “the bear stays up.”

The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza

2. The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza by David Shannon

David Shannon is my favorite children’s author. He is our first author of the month each year in my classroom as I described in my Author of the Month blog post. I love revisiting familiar characters throughout the year but I also love pulling out seasonal books by authors that we have previously studied. This story is great but the illustrations are what bring it to life. The borders of the pages start out plain. As the Merriweather house becomes more and more decorated (to the displeasure of their neighbors), so do the borders around the text. Shannon is a great writer, but his illustrations steal the show in this book.


The Night Before the Night Before Christmas1. The Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Natasha Wing

My all-time favorite read-aloud is hilarious. I probably could recite more of this book than I could the original The Night Before Christmas. There is a mom with the flu, I get to scream “Bad kitty!," the baby of the family goes to the bathroom on Santa, and the main character asks the eternal question, “What on earth is a sugarplum? Is it a candy or a prune?” The book ends with the family realizing that Christmas is about family and love. That is my wish for my students, and for you, dear reader. 



Being a lover of top ten lists, I know that you probably have a read-aloud book that didn’t make my list! I hope that you will take a moment and share some great books that I missed.

Happy Holidays and I can’t wait to see you in 2014!

Brian Smith will return to the Top Teaching blog on January 6th.

Comments (14)

All new books for me do I will enjoy using them. Thanks!

Thanks for reading! I hope you find a new favorite!

As always, an awesome blog entry, Brian...I'm not familar with your number one choice,"The Night Before The Night Before Christmas", so I can't wait to track it down and read it to my class! We just read "Olive,The Other Reindeer" today (by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh) and the kids loved it! I think they could identify with repeating expressions that they hear inaccurately! Happy Holidays!

Hi Karen!
Olive is a great story! I was actually introduced to that character through the TV special (I think Drew Barrymore does the voice)and I was totally hooked. How many of the beat stories are kids mishearing things! Too many to count for me! I have since bought the book and it is a great story! I hope you have a great break and a happy holiday season!

Thank you so much for including my book, The Night Before the Night Before Christmas. I had fun writing it, and it's actually a tribute to the original story.
P.S. This is a great site. Love the pop-up people at the top!

Hi Ms. Wing!
How exciting to have you post! I am obviously a fan and I just read your book to my class today and they LOVED it! We actually have another copy at our house that we read to our daughter each year! Thanks for sharing your creativity with us!
Happy Holidays!

Refreshing choices! I am always looking for new read-a-loud books... you gave me 8 to add to my list! Thanks!

Hi Mrs. Morford!
I LOVE when someone tells me about a great book (new or older) and I'm glad that I got to share my favorites! What is your favorite?
Happy Holidays

Great post Brian! Pete the Cat is even a favorite in the upper grades. I'm glad you shared.

Happy Holidays!

Hi Kriscia
Thanks! Pete is awesome and I just ordered the Pete the Cat Valentines book. It's great that there is a character that kids love so much that we can revisit all year. Pete is like a friend of my class!
Happy Holidays

I love this post Brian...My favorite was Polar Express with my kids...but I love your choices...also love Top Ten Lists!

Hi Kathleen,
Polar Express is a GREAT choice! The book and the movie are some of my favorites.
Happy Holidays

This blog made my day.

Hi Ferrell!
Thanks for reading and for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed it!
Happy Holidays!

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