30 Best Family Read-Alouds for the Holiday Season

These Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa books will ring in a memorable family reading tradition, all while benefiting your child's literacy skills.
By Scholastic Parents Staff
Dec 09, 2019



christmas book classics

Dec 09, 2019

The smell of firewood in the living room, a soft blanket and fuzzy slippers, and a special holiday book to read with your little one make up some of the sweetest memories of the holiday season. We find that a special holiday read-aloud creates family memories and often imparts lessons of gratitude and magic — and that's one of the best holiday gifts we can think to give. 

Reading stories out loud also benefits children's language development and literacy skills, helping their vocabulary, creativity, and love of reading flourish. It can even give you the opportunity to read chapter books that may be too challenging for your child to read independently (let's say, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens), while still exposing them to new genres, authors, and storylines. 

Here are the most delightful books to choose from this 2019 holiday season, ranging from touching classics to silly modern tales. They include a mix of our own recommendations, plus favorites from the Scholastic Parents community on Facebook and Instagram

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Fun & Playful Holiday Books

1. The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll

A charming installment of a bestselling series, this is the story of two mice on a mission to find the very biggest Christmas tree (something your young readers might aspire to each year, too!). Who will find the very biggest one? This is a great read to bring a smile to your child's face, and to get them excited about your own family's Christmas tree hunt.

2. The Littlest Reindeer by Brandi Dougherty 

Your family has likely never met an antlered friend quite as adorable as Dot! In this sweet holiday companion to The Littlest Elf, Dot is the smallest reindeer in the North Pole — but she has big dreams to help Santa pull his sleigh. The only problem? She can't fly the right way, no matter how hard she runs, leaps, and kicks. In this sweet read, your little ones will discover if Dot can truly learn how to fly, or if she's simply too little for the job. 

3. Merry Christmas, Peppa! by Melanie McFadyen

Peppa absolutely loves Christmas — after all, it's filled with family time, lots of fun, and presents. But after she plays too rough and gets hurt, she wonders if it can be a very merry Christmas, after all. Your little ones will adore the riveting story about this universally loved character, and they won't be able to take their eyes off of the glittery cover and included sparkly stickers! 

4. Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel! by Scholastic 

This shiny, sing-along board book is actually shaped like a dreidel! Your little one can sing along to the tune of the classic song "I Have a Little Dreidel" as you introduce them to an exciting Hanukkah tradition. They'll watch in wonder as animal families light the menorah, fry the latkes, and of course, spin the dreidel!  

5. Clifford’s Christmas by Norman Bridwell

The world's most beloved big red dog, Clifford, is celebrating Christmas with Emily Elizabeth by making a snowman and getting a tree! But on Christmas night, Santa accidentally falls into Clifford’s stocking, and the gifts from his bag tumble into Clifford’s water bowl. Soaking wet, all of the presents are ruined. Can Clifford help Santa save Christmas? Your preschooler will get wrapped up in the excitement and gentle suspense of this classic holiday read. 

6. How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? by Jane Yolen

From the wildly popular How Do Dinosaurs series, this Christmas book showcases lovable dinosaurs who act just like children around the holidays — but will they learn to behave? Does a dinosaur go up to bed, without making a peep? Or does he sneak out, just to check what's to see? You and your little one will love the story and the beautifully illustrated pages of present-bearing dinosaurs, each labeled with their scientific name — from Gigantoraptor to Einiosaurus. 

7. How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen

Little dinosaurs love to celebrate the Festival of Lights! But sometimes the excitement of Chanukah can tempt a little one to misbehave. Your family will love joining in on this joyful romp filled with tumbling dreidels and melting gelt, and your children will discover that dinosaurs say Happy Chanukah with an abundance of love, joy, memory, and gratitude. 

8. Merry Christmas, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt

The snuggly bedtime favorite, I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, is followed up by this colorful family read-aloud. It gently touches on those endless "what if?" questions you often hear from your inquisitive preschooler, such as, "What happens if one of the reindeer gets his antlers stuck in the branches over the roof?" Luckily, you don't need to scramble for answers! In this book, a mama reassures her little one (and yours!) that Christmas will be magical no matter what.

9. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas! by Sandra Magsamen 

"'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, everyone was quiet... including the mouse!" Christmas wouldn't be complete without this classic tale, and in this rendition of it, adorable illustrations truly bring the sweet rhymes to life. This book is tall and slim, so it's also a great goodie to slip into stockings!  

10. Fly Guy's Ninja Christmas by Tedd Arnold

In this fun, zany holiday story, Fly Guy doesn't have a present to give his best friend, Buzz. When he goes out to find one for him, he encounters a stranger in his house! (Spoiler alert: It's actually Santa Claus.) Will Fly Guy mistakenly fight off Santa with his ninja moves? Will he find a present? Even reluctant readers will be buzzing about this book! 

11. Teeny Tiny Santa by Rachel Matson

Nobody is too little to get a visit from Santa, but one sweet, tiny fox hears that it's so. You can imagine his surprise when the most magical visitor arrives on a snowy Christmas night! This heartwarming and festive read-aloud is filled with vibrant illustrations and bouncy rhymes, such as: "In a teeny tiny village on an evening cold and bright, a teeny tiny fox dreamt of Christmas night." This is a story your child will remember for years to come. 

12.  Stick Man by Julia Donaldson

Stick Man lives in his family tree with Stick Lady Love and their three stick children. But one day, a mischievous dog carries him away! Lonely and lost, Stick Man is desperate to get back home to his family for Christmas. After he helps Santa get out of a tricky situation, Mr. Claus helps him return to his loved ones in the family tree. Your child will love the bright illustrations and sing-song writing in this memorable read.

13. I Love You Snow Much by Sandra Magsamen

This touching book has its own winter red cap and a jolly family of snowmen, who help remind your baby or toddler just how much they're loved. Little ones will delight in holding this chunky board book, touching the soft cap, and watching the snowmen partake in a smattering of holiday festivities, like picking out a Christmas tree. 

14. It's Christmas, David! by David Shannon

There is plenty of mischief to be had around Christmas time, and your child will giggle along with David (and learn important lessons about good behavior!) as he finds trouble in this book. As the often-misbehaving David plays with delicate ornaments or struggles to behave at fancy holiday dinner parties, Santa is watching to see if he is being naughty or nice!

15. I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz

A family drives through the snow to visit their beloved bubbe, who has spread out a delicious Chanukah dinner for everyone to enjoy. But things go wrong when she accidentally eats a dreidel she thought was a bagel — and the family must try to stop her as she goes on to eat oil, latkes, and even menorahs!

16. I Love the Nutcracker: My First Sound Book by Marion Billet

Introduce your young child to one of the most recognized and beloved traditions of the holiday season! This enchanting board book features musical sounds that bring every charming picture to life, helping little readers become familiar with Tchaikovsky's classical ballet. Your child can press a button to hear each! Interactivity and music like this help children develop their language and fine motor skills. 

17. Can You See What I See? Christmas Read-and-Seek by Walter Wick

Your kids will have the opportunity to go on a hunt for toys and trinkets on the pages of this book as they explore gingerbread houses and other Christmas scenes. “In true-I SPY fashion, kids search for items — some are easily found, while others are more challenging," says Scholastic Parents fan Darla H. "The illustrations are beautiful... it's a beautiful picture book for young and old alike.”

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

So many family memories are set to a soundtrack of laughter, and this book will most certainly provide that for you. Everyone will be laughing out loud as you enjoy this cumulative, fantastical story that builds on a pattern kids can easily follow along with. 

19. Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

Fans of Pig the Pug will adore this colorful holiday picture book. When the greedy, rascally pup you know and love decides to wait up all night to ensure he gets the presents on his wish list, he ends up becoming part of Santa's flying sleigh! This story teaches kids an important lesson about gratitude and patience. 

20. Top Elf by Caleb Huett

This is a great chapter book for kids in grades 3 to 7 (and you can certainly read it out loud, too)! It can be difficult to find appealing holiday chapter books for older readers, but this one 100% fits the bill. In it, Santa is in search of his successor and the elves are eager to enter the contest. Silliness ensues as elves Ollie and Celia try out, and must squeeze through impossible chimneys, race runaway sleighs, and sweet-talk a squad of rowdy reindeer.

21. Swindle #8: Jingle by Gordon Korman 

When Griffin Bing and his friends get signed up to volunteer at a local Christmas extravaganza — as elves — instead of going away for winter break, they are less than thrilled. There's a Doberman who's playing Rudolph and making up the rules as he goes a santa who's bad news, but nothing compares to when a prized Christmas possession worth more than 10 million dollars gets stolen from under their noses! These elves must solve the mystery and track down a Christmas thief. 

22. Revenge of the Angels by Jennifer Ziegler

The Brewster triplets Dawn, Darby, and Delaney usually love Christmas, but this year, nothing is going right. They wanted to play the three wise people in the local pageant, but got cast as angels instead, just because they're girls (so not fair!). To make things worse, their loved ones are stuck in snowy weather, and someone is stealing decorations and baked goods from their neighbors' houses. In this hilarious story, the girls have to find a way to make things right and recover the holiday cheer. 

Classic Holiday Books

23. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

As you probably remember from the movie, this is the story of one child’s magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole, where he's gifted a special Christmas bell. It’s a beautiful story to share with your children, and offers a sweet reminder that many wondrous things in life often cannot be seen with the eyes.

24. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

With this book, your older reader will have the opportunity to journey with Mr. Scrooge through Christmases past, present, and future and learn how even the grumpiest heart can be transformed by kindness and gratitude. Give it as an early holiday gift to your child, and it'll make the movies about this classic tale more meaningful for them (and as a bonus, they'll have experienced a special piece of classic literature!). 

25. I Spy Christmas by Jean Marzollo

Perfect for entertaining kids during those hours of holiday meal prep or on road trips, this stunningly gorgeous book features spreads of photographic puzzles and riddles for your child to solve. The book is designed for ages 4 to 6, but everyone in the family will enjoy getting in on the fun. 

26. Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah by Norman Bridwell

Your family can follow along as Clifford and Emily Elizabeth celebrate their first Hanukkah! Clifford and Emily Elizabeth love hearing the story of Hanukkah, eating latkes and sufganiyot, and playing dreidel. When they take a trip into town to see the giant menorah, they discover one light is broken — but Clifford might just be big enough to save the day. 

27. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

It wouldn't be the holidays without reading this classic (and your kids have likely seen more than one film about the infamous Grinch, so they'll be excited to get on board!). In this wonderful tale, the Grinch has a heart that's three sizes too small, and simply detests Christmas. When his plan to steal all the gifts from the residents of Whoville fails, the Grinch learns that Christmas means more than presents, music, and feasts. "It's fun, and there is redemption and forgiveness," says Scholastic Parents fan Lyne E.

28. K Is for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford

With this one-of-a-kind alphabet book, your little ones can learn about Kwanzaa, a week-long annual holiday that celebrates African-American heritage. This book includes the seven Kwanzaa principles, and is packed with information and stunning illustrations. 

29. The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

Do you decorate your home with poinsettia during the holidays? This book tells the Mexican folktale of how the poinsettia came to be an important symbol of the Christmas season. The heartwarming and colorful story also imparts a beautiful message about the true meaning of giving.

30. My Santa Claus by Lily Karr

This darling board book is made to look exactly like Santa Claus — complete with a shiny suit and fuzzy beard! Perfect for an active reader who likes to explore books by hand, this glimmering read will be one to remember for years to come.

Help your child's reading skills grow with one of these stunning 2019 holiday gift book sets for under the tree. You can also make holiday shopping easier by stocking up on these easy, inexpensive stocking stuffers for readers, crafters, and imaginative kids

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