In the final months of the year, bookshop shelves offer a range of Christmas picture books to tempt preschoolers and their parents. There are also many Christmas book options for older children who like to read independently.
Traditional Christmas Classic Stories
Many traditional Christmas stories are better suited to older readers because of the more complex language structure or the length of the story. Younger readers can enjoy stories such as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas when reading with an adult, but they are too challenging for them to read alone.
Most traditional stories exist in a variety of reprints and editions, including illustrated versions and modern adaptations. There are often also abridged or simplified versions that suit younger independent readers. Check the text before purchasing to ensure that the language is at an appropriate level for the child.
Traditional stories (including edition suggestions) include:
The Night Before Christmas – Clement C Moore (Running Press, 1995)
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (Walker Books)
The Gift of the Magi – O Henry (Walker Books)
Nativity stories also exist at a variety of reading levels and can be found in suitable formats for older children.
The famous 1897 editorial by Francis P Church from The New York Sun titled Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus is a short but interesting read for older children. The editorial can be easily found in a variety of forms on the internet, including a scanned copy of the original.
Modern Christmas Books
Many popular children’s authors including those listed publish Christmas-themed books involving their well-known characters.
Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday (Walker Books) by Megan McDonald and Peter Reynolds. Judy and Stink are preparing for Christmas. Judy is writing her Christmas wish list out on a roll of toilet paper (the only paper long enough to list everything that she wants). Stink only wants one thing – snow for Christmas Day. Between Judy, Stink and the new postman Jack Frost, Christmas Day is full of special surprises.
Suitable for children reading at first chapter book level, this is a fun and amusing family Christmas story with a gentle message about thinking of others at Christmas.
The Lump of Coal (HarperCollins) by Lemony Snicket. Fans of Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events will enjoy this Christmas story with a difference. Similar in style, this book shares the story of a lump of coal that can think, talk and move about. The lump of coal is looking for his own Christmas miracle, but begins to think that it will never happen.
With a strong message encouraging children to focus on the wonderful things in their lives if they want to find the true miracles not only of Christmas but of everyday, The Lump of Coal is a very enjoyable book with an offbeat charm sure to appeal to children from 7 years.
Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas (Scholastic) by Terry Deary. Not quite the usual Christmas read, Horrible Christmas shares a collection of weird and wonderful facts about Christmas sure to pique the interest of 8+ readers, especially boys. With information about why making Christmas pudding used to be illegal and spine-tingling Christmas stories, this book lives up to the series claim of “history with all the nasty bits left in”.
Encouraging Independent Reading at Christmas
Christmas is an ideal time to get children enthusiastic about reading. There is something about the season that lends itself to sharing and exploring great stories. Encourage children to read books at the appropriate level for their age and ability and spend time reading favourite stories together as a family.
The Night before Christmas (ISBN: 0-00-716711-3)
A Christmas Carol (ISBN: 978-1-921150-63-0)
The Gift of the Magi (ISBN: 978-1-84428-038-4)
The Holly Joliday (ISBN: 978-1-4063-1365-9)
The Lump of Coal (ISBN: 978-0-06-157428-3)
Horrible Christmas (ISBN: 978-1407108148