Here are things I look for when choosing stories to read outloud: positive images of family life, positive images of children, positive humour, and/or illustrations that I found attractive and beautiful.
Lucy and Tom’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes fits all of my criteria. There is something so inviting and cozy about Shirley Hughes’ illustrations. Her stories are so real and down to earth. Reading one of her picture books to my children would remind me to slow down and see the world from my toddler’s point of view. I found it very helpful to have those kind of reminders in the books I read aloud. That wasn’t the point of the story but it was one of the benefits of this book by Shirley Hughes. In this story, we see the preparations Lucy and Tom’s family make for Christmas. It is all very low-key yet from a toddler’s point of view very exciting and different. If you’ve never read Shirley Hughes, you’re in for a treat for she has written many books.
Stories for Christmas by Alison Utttley is another favourite. This collection of short stories by this prolific author is a treasure. As I reread through this collection of Alison Uttley’s stories in the last few days, I was reminded of the magic of a simple country Christmas. This collection of stories ranges from one about Sam Pig and his brothers and sister to ones about the forgotten dolls in a dollhouse to the story of Timothy a woodcutter, his wife Jenny Wren, their infant son Timothy, Old Holly and three magic holly berries. I read these stories to my children starting when they were about 4 –5.
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden is about a little orphan girl (Ivy) who decides that she’s going to find her grandmother this Christmas, and a doll (Holly) who is looking for a girl for Christmas. It’s lovely story of both the little doll and the little girl and how they find each other with a number of misadventures that all lead to a very positive resolution. This story is for children 4 and up. I love all of the books Rumer Godden has written about dolls and children. Characteristic of her writing is the way she keeps at least two story lines going – one from the dolls’ point of view and one from the people’s point of view.
The Church Mice at Christmas by Graham Oakley is a rich story in both words and detailed illustrations. The mice decide to have a Christmas party. They need to have money so they try to raffle off Samson, the church cat. This fails, so they try other ways to make money. After a number of near disasters, they finally put on a party. This picture book and the other church mice books by Graham Oakley intrigued my sons in particular. It was fun to look at all of the details in the illustrations and the humour made us all laugh and smile.
Brambly Hedge - Winter Story: A Party In The Ice Palace by Jill Barklem is one of four books in the seasons series of the Brambly Hedge books. This story is a feast for the eyes. I love the details and soft colours Jill Barklem used. The story is filled with the anticipation and excitement of the mice children preparing for the ball that will be held in the ice palace.
I noticed that this book is in the collection A Year in Brambly Hedge that includes all four seasonal stories in a new reprint by Harper Collins Children's Books (28 Oct 2010) 978-0007371662 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Brambly Hedge. Hurray!!! If you are looking for a book to give as present a for a little girl, I can’t think of a better one than this collection of Brambly Hedge stories. The Brambly Hedge website has been redesigned. You can visit it here and have a look at the delightful world Jill Barklem created..
Enjoy! More to come still ... Happy holiday reading!
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.