Editor's note: This post was originally published on November 9, 2014.
The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year. There are so many wonderful activities, events, and traditions for families during this time. Here are a few fun ideas that incorporate literacy into the magic and anticipation of the holidays.
1. Create a Book Advent
The advent calendar is one of the most popular ways to count down the days until Christmas. Last year, instead of opening chocolates each day, we opened books! The book advent quickly became a treasured tradition that our family will continue to enjoy and anticipate for years to come.
To create a Book Advent, you will need to purchase and wrap 24 picture books. Choose a collection of 24 classic picture books like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 24 holiday books, or any mix of titles your children will enjoy. I took the opportunity to bolster our picture book collection last year, and will focus on Christmas/winter books this year. I spend several weeks/months browsing thrift stores and searching through the latest Scholastic Reading Club flyers to find just the right titles. When you select books, choose titles that will be of high interest to your children.
I placed all of the wrapped books in a basket under the tree. I want my children to begin to understand that reading is a gift! (And honestly, books make just about the best present!) Each night in December, we choose one book to open and read it together as a family.
2. Teach Your Child About the Holidays
Last year, I picked up a few books about Hanukkah. I chose several non-fiction titles for information and several fiction titles for story and enjoyment. I wasn't sure how my children would react, but was so pleasantly surprised at their delight and level of interest. They enjoyed learning about the holiday celebrations of another religion/culture so much, that we will spend time each year learning about the different ways people celebrate the holidays.
Select a winter holiday that your family doesn't normally celebrate, or choose to learn about how the holiday your family observes is celebrated in another country.
Check out a variety of fiction and non-fiction books about the holiday/cultural celebrations you are learning about. Prepare traditional food. Make crafts that reflect the symbols/activities associated with the holiday/cultural celebration. Play games, listen to music, and get your children involved in the research/learning process. Not only does this idea encourage literacy, but shows your child that learning about something new can be fun and exciting.
3. Remember Books Make the Perfect Gifts
Many families have gift-giving traditions. Some children receive a new pair of jammies every year on Christmas Eve or on the 4th night of Hanukkah, etc. This year, make an effort to incorporate the giving of books into your holiday traditions.
I want my children to fall in love with reading and begin to view reading and receiving great books as precious gifts. Commit to making books part of your holiday gift-giving routine.
Some ideas include introducing your children to a new-to-them series each year, like Ricky Ricotta or Ivy + Bean, or introducing them to a favorite book from your childhood. You could choose to give a fiction and a non-fiction book about a topic of interest to your child. Choose several books that are right at your child's reading level. Set aside a special day during the season to select a new holiday book or snuggle up as a family to enjoy The Night Before Christmas. Give your kids one new holiday-themed book each year. Stuff their stockings with books or stack a pile under the tree.
This year, let's give our kids the gift of reading. Let's fill our holiday packages and homes with a wide selection of titles and raise up a generation of children who are excited about reading.
Happy reading and happy holidays!