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Christmas Read Alouds

by Miriam Downey 25. November 2013 18:36


Do you read aloud to your children? Author Jim Trelease has based his whole career on reading aloud to children, young and old. Most of us know the value of reading aloud to younger children, but there is great value in reading aloud to older children as well. He says, "The first reason to read aloud to older kids is to consider the fact that a child's reading level doesn't catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade." In other words, kids can understand books that are too hard to decode themselves if they are read aloud. "You have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it. Reading at this level happens through the ear."

Trelease says that when children hear a good book read to them they know that if they keep working on their reading, some good things are ahead of them. He calls it "broadening the menu." The joys of reading are ahead of them and the hard work will soon be behind them.

Additionally, reading together is a bonding experience that happens when more than one person is reading the same book.There's time for reflection, for sharing--something great that can be shared every day. Trelease says that shared words have power and an energy that you can't get from TV or the Internet. Children will recall read alouds with fond memories long after the book is finished.

I recall with great affection a Christmas weekend when we had a large family gathering with several elementary aged children. I read aloud The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson after supper each night. It only took a couple of hours altogether, but it was such a wonderful experience for us all. On the third night, they staged the book as a play and had a great time.

Reading aloud a Christmas story might be a way to introduce the whole idea of reading aloud to your children. Here are a few books that can be found online or at the library that would make great read alouds for your whole family. Remember you can read aloud a book that has much greater vocabulary than your youngest child can read. In other words, children understand more words than they can read. Once you get going, you are not going to want to stop. Jim Trelease's book, The Read Aloud Handbook, is a wonderful resource for read aloud books.

We must start with the Nativity story in the Bible. You can find the story in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 2.

Probably the most famous Christmas story after the Bible is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It can easily be found online, and you could follow up the reading by watching the movie.

Then there is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. It is available at the library or bookstore.

Here are some other great Christmas stories that are wonderful read alouds. Have fun!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. the Grinch is the great Scrooge of the 20th century.

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. This is a memory of a famous English poet about Christmas in the early years of the 20th century.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore. The famous Christmas poem can be read in one sitting.

Red Ranger Came Calling: A Guaranteed True Christmas Story by Berkeley Breathed. Great read aloud available at the library.

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Capote had an unusual childhood, and this story tells of one Christmas in his life.

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The First Thanksgiving in Picture Books

by Miriam Downey 9. November 2013 15:01



 Our family Thanksgiving has always included many people--some of whom are not family members. We have included friends of our children, college roommates, foreign students, as well as people from church and our community activities who have nowhere else to go. Our feeling has always been "the more the merrier," and I am sure many of you have similar holiday celebrations. Thanksgiving is all about family and tradition.

Besides family members, our Thanksgiving this year will include a young Egyptian couple and a few young students from Saudi Arabia that I tutor. How do I explain Thanksgiving to them? The holiday is so rich in American culture. It is the essence of what makes our country great. I will have to explain why we eat turkey, corn, and cranberry sauce. I will need to explain how the earliest settlers were made welcome by the Native Americans, and how the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to survive in this strange land. It is indeed a marvelous holiday, and it is unique to the United States.

Our guests this year will bring stuffed grape leaves, baklava, and a Saudi dish called Kebsa. We will enjoy these new tastes along with our mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

One of my favorite books for the holidays is Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. It completely captures the essence of the holiday. I have included on this list of books a variety of stories for all ages that tell of the origins of the holiday. You will be able to find them at your library or bookstore. Some may be available for Kindle or Nook.

There are three cute Thanksgiving books available online on We Give Books. You will find them on the front page of the website.

 Stories about the First Thanksgiving 

!621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac. Photographs by Cotton Coulson and Sisse Brimberg (Grades 3–5 )
In October of 2000, Plimoth Plantation cooperated with the Wampanoag community to stage an historically accurate reenactment of the 1621 harvest celebration. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving exposes the myth that this event was the "first Thanksgiving" and is the basis for the Thanksgiving holiday that is celebrated today. This exciting book describes the actual events that took place during the three days that the Wampanoag people and the colonists came together.

The First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward (Grades PreK–1)
Give young readers the familiar story behind our tradition of Thanksgiving Day, detailed in this easy-to-read history storybook. The Pilgrims' journey, the trials they endure while at sea, and all of their amazing adventures are conveyed with vibrant illustrations and simple words for utmost comprehension.

Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern (Grades PreK–1)
Full-color illustrations bring to life this historically accurate account of how the children of Plymouth Colony helped contribute to the first Thanksgiving celebration.

Squanto's Journey by Joseph Bruchac (Grades K–3)
Travel back to 1620 as an English ship called the Mayflower lands on the shores inhabited by the Pokanoket people. As Squanto welcomes the newcomers and teaches them how to survive in the rugged land they called Plymouth, young readers are treated to a story ending with the two peoples feasting together in the spirit of peace and brotherhood.

If You Were at the First Thanksgiving by Anne Kamma (Grades 1-4)
Told from a child's perspective and illustrated in full color, this book brings the first Thanksgiving to life. Details about daily life put young readers into the middle of the action.

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern (Grades 1–4)
Answer children's questions about the Pilgrims with an enlightening Thanksgiving story. With the beautiful illustrations, young readers can imagine being right on the ship, waiting to arrive in a new land. As part of the If You series, this book helps bring history to life and nurture imagination.

The Journal of Jasper Jonathan Pierce: A Pilgrim Boy, 1620  by Ann Rinaldi (Grades 4–8)
By promising seven years of labor to a fellow traveler, Jasper earns passage aboard the Mayflower and closes the door on his troubled past. His account of the arduous ocean crossing and first year in the New World shows young readers his physical and spiritual growth as he learns the strengths and weaknesses in himself, his Puritan people, and his Native American neighbors.

Other Thanksgiving Holiday Stories

Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit  by Norman Bridwell (Grades PreK–2)
What child wouldn't like to have a pet as special as Clifford the Big Red Dog? In this adventure, Clifford experiences an unusual Thanksgiving journey, ending with an appreciation of overcoming difficulties, celebrating tradition, and spending time with family.

Gracias, el Pavo de Thanksgiving  by Joy Crowley (Grades PreK–2)
In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. Beginning Spanish vocabulary is woven into the text, giving young readers a unique Thanksgiving story experience.

Molly's Pilgrim  by Barbara Cohen (Grades K–3)
Molly nears her first Thanksgiving in America and her classmates giggle at her Yiddish accent and make fun of her unfamiliar ways. Now her mother embarrasses her with a doll that looks more Russian than Pilgrim. Will Molly discover something to be thankful for?



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