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Deck the Shelves: Must-Read Christmas Books for Kids

During the holiday season, we are so busy shopping, cooking, wrapping, and traveling that we might forget to take in the beauty of twinkling lights, uplifting carols, and the joy of family gatherings. I usually take off work the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to remind myself that this season is a time of celebration, love, and tradition. I love to stay in my jammies all day, cuddle up on the couch in front of the fireplace with my children and read with them! The pages of books can lead us into magical worlds (as well as learning!). Check out my top picks of favorite must-read Christmas tales!

Amelia Bedelia Wraps It Up by Herman Parish (Author), Lynne Avril (Illustrator)

I read Amelia Bedelia when I was a girl (a very long time ago), and for as long as I’ve worked with children, I have shared her with them! When I was a kid, I just thought the stories were funny. As a speech-language pathologist, I love the higher-level language processing and pragmatic language functions needed to understand these entertaining stories. Her stories are perfect for working on literal vs. figurative language. Her humorous mishaps are a fun way to teach a ton of vocabulary and wordplay!

This one is a Christmas story. Amelia Bedelia finds herself short on money for buying a gift. Check out this funny story about her gift-wrapping business!

How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? by Mac Barnett and illustrated byJon Klassen

I didn’t read this story as a child. It’s a new one, but I am already in love with it as an SLP! How is Santa going to get down the chimney? For educators, this has it all. More concepts than I can list… first, up, down, under, thin, through, inside… truly, so many opportunities to teach vocabulary. Answering questions and understanding negatives, making predictions, understanding (deadpan) humor, metaphors, not to mention the sheer imagination it will likely inspire. I have just begun to share this with my kiddos in therapy as it is so new, but it’s already become one of my go-tos at Christmas!

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh By Mo Willems

I love the Pigeon! I think I have all of Mo Willems’ installments with our favorite pigeon! The children I see in therapy love the stories, and my emerging readers are really proud when they can read some of it! However, as a speech pathologist, my favorite use of this book is with my early intervention patients as well as my younger children with apraxia! “Ho, ho, whoa” is a perfect target for both of those populations! If you need a simpler target, this story allows for lots of “NO” practice. At Christmastime, Santa is “always watching”, so I like the underlying message about consequences in this book. Behavior and consequences are an essential theme in my therapy room, so I love being able to relate this story back to that!

Olive The Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold

Very early in my career, when I had no money, I decided I would start investing a little bit in materials that I could own. One of those purchases was a collection of Christmas books that included Olive the Other Reindeer. What a cute story! Olive is a little dog who is getting ready for Christmas when she hears a line from the Rudolph poem (“all of the other reindeer”....). She thinks she’s heard, "Olive the other reindeer", and suddenly believes she is a reindeer, and seeks out Santa to meet her destiny. Of course, at first Santa & the other reindeer are skeptical, but then Olive comes to the rescue on Christmas Eve. As an SLP, this story is an amazing example of auditory processing as well as higher-level language processing.

Moo, Baa, Fa La La La La by Sandra Boynton

I’m not just a speech therapist, I’m also a mom! (Though my boys are 18 and 21 now), Sandra Boynton was a staple in our library when they were little! All of her books made bedtime reading so much fun (not to mention they were great for early literacy when my boys were learning to read… We had the most fun saying “brocolli stew… EEEWWWW”). Whgrew her books, they immediately went into my SLP library! Another set of favorites for my EI and young children with apraxia. This Christmas story is really cute. I love anything with farm animals because the children I work with do too! We have sheep caroling, pigs chuckling, and cows dancing with Christmas joy!

Moo Baa Fa, La, Laen my boys out

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

If you’re a speech-language pathologist, you have to love “If You Mouse Books” for all of your children who need to work on cause and effect, temporal concepts, sequencing, and answering questions! Well, name it! Here’s “mouse” in a holiday story. Give him some popcorn, and he'll be eager to string it together. And once that's done, he'll have a whimsical idea of hanging it on a Christmas tree! So many opportunities for great learning!

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

I’m a sucker for heartwarming lines, poems, stories. If "The Polar Express" wasn’t a classic before the movie, it definitely is now. I had to look it up, but Tom Hanks’ movie adaptation is going to be 20 years old in 2024! The book that it was based on was written in 1985. Strangely enough, there are no mullets nor acid washed jeans, yet it has become a classic. In therapy, I like to read stories that involve imagination, a suspense of reality, and magic. These are amazing opportunities to dig into higher-level language functioning, auditory processing, and to foster vocabulary and syntactic growth. The story is about a young boy's journey aboard a magical train to the snowy North Pole, where he makes a special Christmas wish. This book is sweet, all full of Christmas spirit, and allows for maybe another year of believing in Santa Claus!

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner

Snowmen at Night is definitely on your shelf, right? Vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary! Not to mention, the rhyming story! So important for phonological awareness, vocabulary, and memory skills. Rhyming is a great tool to help kiddos recognize and manipulate sounds and predict patterns in words. Now, you get a Christmas version! What do the snowmen do on Christmas Eve? Your kiddos can tell their own story based on the beautiful pictures alone!

Little Red Sleigh by Erin Guendelsberger Illustrator Elizaveta Tretyakova

We educators know that our kiddos with special needs are going to face extra challenges beyond what the IEP says we should teach them. Still, I like to include stories of special children being included, overcoming, and finding victories, even if those aren’t part of my benchmarks! Little Red wants to become Santa's sleigh, despite being told she's too little Outside of being an amazing booster for kids’ self-esteem, this heartwarming story has amazing pictures that will bolster vocabulary development, sentence structure, and comprehension. Use it to facilitate discussions about the story, encouraging children to express themselves, ask questions, and make predictions. The underlying themes of teamwork and determination are perfect for discussing social and emotional concepts.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess

I don’t care how old you are, you saw “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” when you were a kid, and, most likely, so have the children you work with. A classic! I really like the idea of my kiddos hearing or reading a book that they may have also seen as a movie. This is a chance for full-circle language growth! It may help with comprehension, sequencing, vocabulary… so many aspects of language development! We all know the story. The Grinch is a pretty unhappy, isolated (opportunities for social & pragmatic targets), probably sad creature (emotions!). He masquerades as Santa to ruin the town of Whoville’s celebration only to discover he does have a heart!

The magic of Christmas comes alive through the pages of children's books. These enchanting stories transport kiddos to whimsical worlds filled with Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, and heartfelt messages of love, friendship, and the joy of giving. Whether it's a classic or a new favorite, these stories have the power to create cherished memories and foster a lifelong love for reading. So this holiday season, cuddle up with your little ones, turn the pages, and watch as their imaginations soar with each magical word. Happy reading and Merry Christmas!

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