Thursday, January 24, 2013

Advent and Christmas Family Read-Alouds

Hopefully you won't mind a few Advent and Christmas posts even though we're back in Ordinary Time. I didn't get much posted this year and I don't want to neglect it.

This school year, I've been reading aloud during breakfast from a classic book (classic by my definition). During Advent and Christmas, I put our classic book on hold so I could read from a classic Christmas story each day. Here's a list of what we read during Advent 2012 and a few I've put on the list for 2013. (By the way, I think you could easily continue such reading through the Christmas season, but we tend to travel and put almost all school on hold through Epiphany and then start right back to our "normal" studies.)

Books we read in 2012

The Little Juggler retold and illustrated by Barbara Cooney is one of my favorite books. I've written about it before. This is probably more of a picture book, but I read it during our read-aloud time instead of wrapping it for our picture-book-a-day.

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke - I wrote about this book just before Christmas.

The Lion in the Box by Marguerite De Angeli is the story of one very special Christmas of one of her close friends. I loved reading how this poor family (but rich in love) worked together to serve each other. It's a sweet story and the children loved listening to it.

Books for 2013

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - I had planned to read this book (finally!) to the children, but I read from it one day and met with glazed looks from both First Son and First Daughter even though they already know the plot from Jim Weiss's A Christmas Carol and Other Favorites. It was right before Christmas and I knew we'd be leaving soon for my parent's house so I sadly decided to set it aside. We will start with it next year, though, and read through the whole thing because the original is truly wonderful.

Kirsten's Surprise by Janet Shaw is one of the American Girl books. I don't know much about the dolls, but this story is a nice one to read for St. Lucy's feast day on December 13th. I look forward to sharing it, especially with my girls.

The Trees Kneel at Christmas by Maud Hart Lovelace is the story of the two children in a Lebanese family set in Brooklyn in 1950, right in Park Slope, the wonderful neighborhood Kansas Dad and I called home when we lived in New York City. Afify and her brother, Hanna, set out on Christmas Eve to see if the trees kneel just as they do in Lebanon, to honor the Christ child's birth. It's full of wonderful details about life in New York for Lebanese immigrants, a heart-warming tale of faith. Do pre-read it as there are references to Mary and the Mass that seemed explicitly Catholic to me. Also there are quite a few adults who smoke, which isn't something we find often in contemporary children's literature.

The Birds' Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin - I read this many years ago and decided against sharing it with the children because the end of the book is a little sad, but I recently received a wonderful old copy of it from another member of PaperBackSwap and think I'll read it with the children next year if we have time. If not, it'll be first on our list for Advent 2014.


  1. I remember reading and re-reading the American Girl books as a pre-teen (way before the dolls). Have you read any more of those books with your girls?

  2. I haven't read any of the others, Monica, but I feel like I've heard pretty good things about the books.

  3. We've been reading our way through all of the girls and my two oldest have LOVED them. So far, we've made it through Josephina, Kirstin, and Samantha. They have all been wonderful stories and all the girls show such wonderful qualities of determination, overcoming difficulty and love of family. Just as a side note, Josephina is a Mexican girl living in New Mexico and her family is Catholic. We happened to read Josephina's Surprise (her Christmas story) right around Christmas and it was neat for my girls to read about the Mexican Catholic traditions of celebrating the Nativity during that era.

  4. Julie, that's so good to know! What would you say is the reading level of the books in general? Is it something your oldest daughter can read aloud to you? (I'm not opposed to reading them aloud next year, but I'm also looking for enjoyable books for First Daughter to read to me when we finish our current reading program.)

  5. I would say the reading level is 2nd grade for the American Girl stories (a picture or two every chapter). My oldest can certainly read them with no difficulties but my middle daughter, who is just starting some pre-readers would struggle mightily. There are mystery stories featuring some of the girls (we are reading a Samantha Mystery right now) that are more 3rd/4th grade level. When you come over on the 5th, I can let you look at the Kirstin series (we own all of hers but have been checking out all the other girls' stories from the library...I don't know why :)


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