Good Reading for Christmas

Poinsettia card

For those who enjoy my numerous classic book recommendations, here’s one more–Christmas classics, a whole category unto themselves! We’re all familiar with the smorgasbord of inspirational and entertaining holiday movies, so I don’t need to address that, but the holiday season can be an especially fun time to enjoy read-alouds as a family, or private reading as well. And some of these Christmas-themed books are great for catching the Christmas spirit and maintaining it throughout the season. Here are some our family has enjoyed in past years.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg – the book that inspired the movie. It’s a keeper.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson – Let the Herdmans endear themselves to you.

Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge – Does anyone even know about this story anymore? My first introduction to it was when my class performed it for the parents when I was in fourth grade.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Of course, everyone knows this story. Besides live action films, dozens of cartoon characters have performed it as well, but have you ever read it in Dickens’ original words? It’s pretty entertaining. My kids liked it.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry – Okay, this one’s my personal favorite–a short story with a beautiful and memorable message.

Little House Christmases by Laura Ingalls Wilder – my other personal favorite. You can search through all the Little House books for stories of her Christmases, or there is a book in which they are all collected. I love Laura’s humble Christmases and how, despite their simplicity, they were just as fantastic and magical as any Christmas you can imagine.

The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke – especially appropriate to set the mood for the season.

The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck – My husband read this to all of us a few years ago. He doesn’t usually do the reading, so it was a good time with a good story.

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans – a sentimental favorite for many.

Happy reading, and Merry Christmas!

Read-aloud Recommendations for 15-17-year-olds

And now, to conclude my read-aloud recommendation series, we get to 15-17-year-olds. Yes, reading aloud can still be fun at that age. We’re disconnecting from technology for a few minutes, connecting as a family, enjoying time as our ancestors did. Get with the program!

Whatever you choose to read will be great if your family enjoys it. Personally, I like to stick with what I consider the classics for read-aloud, simply because they, and we for that matter, may miss out on some good stuff otherwise. Classics are largely being pushed out of the schools these days in favor of newer, sometimes unwholesome, sometimes dumbed-down books. I think that’s terribly sad. Said Robert M. Hutchins: “To destroy the Western tradition of independent thought it is not necessary to burn the books. All we have to do is leave them unread for a couple of generations.” I want my children to be familiar with literary masterpieces from all time periods. I want them to hear and be familiar with how good language sounds. I want them to be acquainted with wise and uplifting thought, as well as just enjoy a timeless story. They can and do read whatever they want to on their own time, so read-aloud time is when I try to make sure we feed our minds more healthy things.

We have not read all of these. This list includes ones I’d like to get to eventually. Please feel free to comment with recommendations of your own.

Mathematicians Are People, Too:  Stories of the Lives of Great

Mathematicians, (2 volumes) by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer

Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

He Walked the Americas by L. Taylor Hansen

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Frankenstein:  Or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Emma by Jane Austen

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Abigail Adams:  Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober

Ordeal by Hunger by George Stewart

Anne Frank:  The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

Galileo’s Daughter:  A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith

and Love by Dava Sobel

Marie Curie: A Biography by Eve Curie

The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles A. Lindbergh

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth

Animal Farm by George Orwell

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Contact by Carl Sagan

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson


Read-aloud Recommendations for 12-14-year-olds

Old library chair

Advancing in age now in the recommended read-aloud series, here are my recommendations for 12-14-year-olds. Refer to the lists for earlier ages here and here.

Some may think, as I once did, that read-aloud is only for young children. But as I thought of what families reading aloud meant in pioneer times, my perspective completely changed. In the days of yesteryear, before TV and internet fought for our eye-glazing attention, families remained close and enjoyed marvelous adventures together during evenings spent reading aloud in front of the fireplace or in dim rooms lit by candle or lantern light. Lifelong memories were made in those cabins on the frontier, or Victorian homes on city streets, wherever they called home. It’s a beautiful scene that I wanted to re-create with my own children. I hope you’ll try it too. Your children will treasure it in future years far more than other activities.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle

Tenggren’s Golden Tales From the Arabian Nights

by Gustaf Tenggren

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Born Free by Joy Adamson

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric Kelly

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Helen Keller:  The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Call of the Wild by Jack London

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker

The Cat of Bubastes by G.A. Henty

Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick

The Captain’s Dog:  My Journey With the Lewis & Clark Tribe

by Roland Smith

The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

The Bulletproof George Washington by David Barton

Amistad:  A Long Road to Freedom by Walter Dean Myers

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Lost Moon:  The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13

by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Vern

Read-aloud Recommendations for 9-11-year-olds

School books

In my last post from this series, I gave my list of recommended read-alouds for 6- to 8-year-olds. Now I will post my list for the 9- to 11-year-olds. I was in that age group when my fourth grade teacher introduced me to the fascinating, imaginary world of reading aloud. She was the first teacher I can remember who read chapter books aloud to us. Every day after lunch, we’d lay our heads on our desks and listen while she read a chapter. We were so sad when she came to the end of the chapter and would beg for more. If we were lucky, she might oblige us. I credit her with igniting my fire for reading, and I thank her for that. The books I remember her reading to us are all included in the following list, and I read them to my own children. My very first introduction to the Little House series was in her classroom. It was my favorite series throughout childhood and has even had a measurable impact on my own pioneer-era stories.

I just have to tell you, one of our favorite experiences with my kids was when I read them Summer of the Monkeys with a Southern accent. You really can’t read it any other way, and it was funny and a good time!

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Hans Brinker, Or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight

Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

The Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

by E.L. Konigsburg

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

The Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark

The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Amos Fortune:  Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

Naya Nuki:  Shoshoni Girl Who Ran by Kenneth Thomasma

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis


Read-aloud Recommendations for 6-to-8-year-olds


Read-alouds are one of the greatest treasures of childhood. It transports listeners through space and time, gets children interested in reading and good storytelling, and bonds families in a fun and memorable way that cannot be matched with the TV. First, I want to share one of my favorite poems. This is the kind of mother I’ve tried to be.

 “The Reading Mother” by Strickland Gillilan

I had a mother who read to me

Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea

Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth

‘Blackbirds’ stowed in the hold beneath

I had a mother who read me lays

Of ancient and gallant and golden days;

Stories of Marion and Ivanhoe,

Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a mother who read me tales

Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales

True to his trust till his tragic death,

Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a mother who read me the things

That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-

Stories that stir with an upward touch,

Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be-

I had a mother who read to me.

In this series I will share my own read-aloud book lists. I purposely chose books to represent different parts of the world and different time periods. There are many other great books, just not enough time for them all! Here’s my recommendations for 6-to-8-year-olds.

The Random House Book of Bedtime Stories

Dr. Seuss books

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Because I Love You by Max Lucado

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning

The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen

The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

by Judith Viorst

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Barton

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Barbara Nichol

Tchaikovsky Discovers America by Esther Kalman

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table:  A Math Adventure

by Cindy Newschwander

Benjamin Franklin and the Magic Squares by Frank Murphy

How Much is a Million by David M. Schwartz

Mammoth Magic by Shelley Gill

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

The Sea of Tranquillity by Mark Haddon

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln by Jean Fritz

Selections from When We Were Very Young and Now We Are

Six by A.A. Milne

Going to School series

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margey Williams

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Aesop’s Fables


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