I spent a lot of time reading to my children when they were young. My children learned at home. The books my husband and I read to them and that they read on their own formed a large part of their curriculum. I'll be posting some of our favourite read aloud books here. Some books that I mention will be out of print, but libraries often have some of the old standards and/or they can be found used in second hand brick and mortar or online bookstores such as Amazon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christmas read alouds

There is something so delightfully teary and happy about Christmas and holiday stories.  I love Christmas stories and always have.  When I was a young teen back in the early 60's, I loved reading my mom's magazines - Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Saturday Evening Post, and others - in November and December for the wonderful Christmas stories published in those magazines.  The Christmas story market provided many women writers with an income over many years.  Pearl Buck wrote many of those stories as did others.  As magazines changed and articles became shorter and shorter, that market changed.  I haven't found a magazine with Christmas stories for quite a few years. 

My husband and I have collected a number of stories about Christmas over the years.  I read them outloud to our children every year.  We started reading them in December and then had to start in the middle of November as we added more books to our favourites every year. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as we did.
Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Book Ever!Richard Scarry's Best Christmas Book Ever!   
For toddlers and up

I remember how excited I was to find this book in a bookstore in Calgary, Alberta near to where we lived in December of 1981.  We had a four-year-old and a two-year-old.  It was just perfect for them both.  The book has been in and out of print since then.  Right now it seems to be back in print in a hardcover version.  There are a number of stories in the book, directions for making a pomander, a game and Richard Scarry's characteristic humorous drawings.  We've been reading it every year since 1981, and it still makes me smile.  If you're looking for a book that small children will enjoy, I don't think you can go wrong with this one.

Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas (Book & Tape Gift Box)Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas by Alison Uttley 
for children 3 or 4 and up who can listen to a longer story

If you've never read any of her Little Grey Rabbit books, you may find this a good place to start.  Margaret Tempest's illustrations make this a charming little tale of a simple country Christmas.  I always find it helps me to breathe more deeply to think of the animals decorating their home on Christmas Eve.  It reminds me that one doesn't have to start and be finished by Dec. 1.  The Alison Uttley society website provides some interesting information about this prolific author whose work is too often no longer in print but may be found in the library.

Ida Early Comes over the MountainOne of my all-time favorite stories about a family is contained in two books - Ida Early Comes Over the Mountains and Christmas With Ida Early by Robert Burch. The first book begins with Ida, who is “as close to six feet as seven,” asking for work at the Sutton’s house. The story takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia during the tail end of the Great Depression. Aunt Ernestine, whom Randal, the oldest son, thinks of as “a battleship,” has been helping the family since the children’s mother died the previous spring, but she is not used to children. When Ida comes to the door “fresh as ragweed” to ask for work, the father offers her the job of taking care of the family. The youngest children, 5-year-old twins Clay and Dewey, are quite intrigued with Ida. Ida is an unusual character not only for her height but also for her skills. Rather than walking to a peg and hanging up her sweater, “she held the sweater over her head, twirled it around twice, and let it go. It sailed to the corner, landing neatly on the hat rack.”

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:
Dewey said happily, “Guess what, Aunt Ernestine? Ida Early’s going to read us the funny papers!”
“No, she’s not! Ida’s going to wash the dishes.” Aunt Ernestine sounded very sure of it.
“Of course I am,” said Ida, sitting down between Clay and Dewey. “But first we’ll just have a look at Orphan Annie.”
“Oh, boy!” said Dewey. “We like Little Orphan Annie.”
After Ida read the strip to them, Clay said, “We like Dick Tracy, too.”
“Well ain’t that a jolly coincidence?” said Ida. “So do I! In fact, I like ‘em all!”
“So do we!” said Clay. “Let’s read some more.”
Ida started reading Dick Tracy to them, but Aunt Ernestine interrupted them.
“The comic strips will wait; the dishes won’t.”
“Oh, no, ma’am,” said Ida Early. “It’s the other way around. If the funnies are not read they’re liable to disappear - somebody will throw ‘em out or burn them up or something. But dirty dishes? Why I ain’t never known one of them to get away!”

Christmas With Ida Early continues the story and again, Ida shows that what's in the heart is more important than the way one looks.  Ida is one unique character I’d sure like to meet. This book is appropriate for ages 5 and up. You can certainly read it to a younger child, especially if you also have older children.

It’s difficult to give hard and fast rules about how old a child should be before reading a certain book out loud. The main thing to watch for in any child is enjoyment of the story. What is interesting to some children might be boring or too complex for others. If you find that you have chosen a book that none of your children like, stop reading it.  There is no value in making them listen when they’ve had enough or don’t like the story. Being read to needs to be a pleasurable experience.

More to come ....

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