There's no denying that reading with your children during the lead-up to Christmas Day makes the holidays extra special.
There's nothing like cozying up together, warm cups of cocoa in hand, and paging through a favorite book. Every story blends a unique mixture of magic, morals, gratitude, and joy.
There are so many delightful books to choose from — from super-silly to classic to crowd-pleasers. We also asked Scholastic Parents fans on Facebook and Instagram to tell us their favorite holiday books to read with their kids. So, in celebration of Christmas, here are 30 classic and contemporary titles your family will enjoy discovering (or re-discovering) this season. Also, browse other must-haves on our Holiday Gift Guide.
Fun & Playful Christmas Books
These titles are full of holiday cheer, favorite book characters, and Santa! Heartwarming lessons are learned through fun holiday adventures. Your little ones will beg you to read these over and over, all season long.
1. Stick Man gets separated from his family in the heartwarming tale Stick Man, written in clever rhyme by Julia Donaldson. But, after he helps Santa out of a tricky situation, Santa helps homesick Stick Man get back to his loved ones in the family tree.
2. The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll is the story of two mice on a mission to find the very biggest Christmas tree. (It's likely a mission your young readers will aspire to each year.) The problem is that all the good ones seem to be taken.
3. Clifford’s Christmas by Norman Bridwell features the beloved big, red dog, Clifford, as he celebrates Christmas with Emily Elizabeth. On Christmas night, Santa accidentally falls into Clifford’s stocking and the gifts from Santa’s bag fall into Clifford’s water bowl and are ruined! Can Clifford help Santa save Christmas? It's a fun Christmas story for preschool-sized Clifford fans.
4. How is it that 4-year-olds can pronounce all the dinosaur names? The wildly popular How Do Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen features a Christmas edition called How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas. Those mischevious dinosaurs love to sneak peeks at the gifts and lick the candy canes. Know any little ones who do the same?
5. Dave Pilkey books will be stuffed in the stockings this year — especially since the new Dog Man book releases on Christmas Eve. Have your kids read Pilkey’s Dragon series? Dragon shows a lot of compassion and kindness in Dragon's Merry Christmas as he gives away gifts to needy creatures he meets.
6. There is plenty of mischief to be had at Christmas time and David is sure to find it in It's Christmas, David! by David Shannon. As the often misbehaving David tries to sneak a peek at presents and more, Santa is watching to see if the hilariously adorable tot is being naughty or nice!
7. The snuggly, bedtime favorite, I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt was followed up by Merry Christmas, Stinky Face. This colorful read-aloud will echo those endless "what if" questions from your inquisitive preschooler like, what happens if one of the reindeer gets his antlers stuck in the branches over the roof? Mama does a great job reassuring her little one that Christmas will be magical.
8. Can You See What I See? Christmas by Walter Wick will have your kids on the hunt for toys and trinkets on the pages of the book as they explore gingerbread and other Christmas scenes. Scholastic Parents fan Darla H. shared, “In true-I SPY fashion, kids search for items — some easily found, while others are more challenging. The illustrations are beautiful....a beautiful picture book for young and old alike.”
9. I Spy a Christmas Tree by Jean Marzollo is another title that will keep the kids engaged for quite a while as they try to find objects in busy holiday scenes. It’s a parenting win.
10. So many family memories have a laughter soundtrack. The family will be laughing out loud as you enjoy There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell by Lucille Colandro. It's a cumulative, fantastical story that builds on a pattern kids can sing along to.
11. Pig the Pug fans will adore the colorful Pig the Elf picture book by Aaron Blabey. When that greedy, rascally pup decides to wait up all night to ensure he gets the presents on his wishlist, he's soon to become part of Santa's flying sleigh!
12. The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia Scarry is another childhood favorite. "I can vividly remember smelling the orange and hot chocolate scratch-and-sniff stickers on the pages of this book," says Scholastic Parents contributor Jodie Rodriguez.
13. Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry is a wonderful tale about sharing and finding new uses for discarded things. Lots of animals in the forest get to enjoy a Christmas tree in their homes because of Mr. Willowby's tree. "This is the first one I read to my kids each year" says Jodie. "I love the vintage feel of the illustrations and the sweet story."
14. Top Elf by Caleb Huett is a chapter book pick. Santa is in search of his successor and the elves are eager to enter the contest. Lots of silliness ensues as elves Ollie and Celia try out.
15. Another chapter book to enjoy is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. A family of siblings takes over the holiday pageant and there's much mischief and many lessons to be learned.
Classic Christmas Books
How many of these titles do you remember from your own childhood? Many of us grew up with these books and started collections with these classic tales.
16. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is the story of one child’s magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole where he's gifted a Christmas bell. While it’s a beautiful story to share with all children, for those questioning their belief in Santa, it offers a sweet reminder that many wondrous things in life often cannot be seen with the eyes.
17. It wouldn't be the holidays without reading the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. In this wonderful tale, the Grinch, with a heart three sizes too small, simply detests Christmas. When his plan to steal all the gifts from the residents of Whoville (in order to stop Christmas coming) fails, the Grinch learns that Christmas means more than presents, music, and feasts. Scholastic Parents fan Lyne E. told us, “It’s fun. There is redemption and forgiveness.” Even the Grinch can be influenced by the spirit of the season.
18. Beautifully crafted illustrations bring to life the classic ballet of Clara and her wooden toy nutcracker in The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin. Travel with Clara on a magical Christmas adventure into the Land of Sweets and see the Nutcracker transform into a handsome prince. It's a perfect title to share together at read-aloud time during the holidays.
19. It doesn't get more classic than A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Journey with Mr. Scrooge through Christmases past, present, and future and learn how even the most miserly heart can be transformed by kindness and gratitude. Read the book and then snuggle up on the couch to watch the movie.
20. “'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” begins Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, brought to life by Jan Brett’s illustrations in this version of The Night Before Christmas. Read the poem together on Christmas Eve, before the children head off to dream big holiday dreams, and it's sure to become a treasured holiday tradition for your family.
21. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry is the story of a couple that each sells something they value to buy a present for the other. However, they end up buying each other a gift that compliments the items sold. It's a beautiful story of sacrifice and love. "This title makes me cry every single time I read it," says Jodie.
22. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer by Robert L. May immediately triggers the song in your head and takes you down memory lane with, “Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” Rudolph guides Santa's sled through the night with his bright red nose.
23. The Little Drummer Boy is a classic song written in 1941. There have been many versions of books based on the Christmas song, but one standout is by Ezra Jack Keats, the Caldecott Award-winning author known for his understated and tranquil illustrations.
24. Jan Brett’s illustrations beautifully complement the lyrics of the traditional Christmas song in The Twelve Days of Christmas. Whether you read or sing the story with your children, be sure to pause to take in the fabulous details included in the illustrations.
Meaningful Christmas Books
Most importantly, we want our kids to understand the true meaning behind the holiday season. Here are the books that will gift your kids that message.
25. Do you decorate your home with poinsettia during the holidays? The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola is a Mexican folktale that tells how the poinsettia came to be an important symbol of the Christmas season. The heartwarming and colorfully illustrated book also imparts a beautiful message about the true meaning of giving.
26. The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson captures the wonder of the season. Santa prepares for the big night and is ready to spread joy throughout the world.
27. A young girl can't stop thinking about a homeless organ grinder on the cold streets in Great Joy by Kate DiCamillio. This is a beautiful tale of compassion during the holidays.
28. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is the story of a woodcarver with past hurts. When he meets a widow and her son, his life changes for the better.
29. An Orange for Frankie, by Patricia Polaccoet, is a touching story set during the Great Depression about a family who doesn't have many worldly possessions, but they have something much more important.
30. Also rich in history is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston. The book highlights the Appalachian culture and showcases the power and love of family.