Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Preschool Activities: My 10 Favorite Christmas Books

By Deborah Pace Rowley

Shortly after we were first married, I began my Christmas book collection. Now that collection numbers about 30 or 35 books and I add at least one book to the collection each Christmas. I love to gather my children around me to share a Christmas story each evening in December. I remember once when my three little girls were small. I had one on my lap and one on each side of me and we were reading a Christmas book. The lights of the Christmas tree were shining in the background, illuminating the pages of the book and the shiny faces of my daughters. I remember thinking, "This is what I dreamed motherhood would be like." It was one of those few magical moments when the reality of motherhood actually exceeded the fantasy I had enjoyed before my oldest was born!

These are my favorite books to read aloud to my children. If you haven't already started your own Christmas book tradition, here are some great stories to get you started. If you already have a Christmas book collection, I hope there is something new here for you to enjoy. It was hard to choose just 10 but I had Katie help me. We had to eliminate How the Grinch Stole Christmas! but we figured everyone knew about that classic already. I wish you could hear our Dad read that aloud each year. That is a real treat!

The Silver Packages is the sweet story about a Christmas train that comes to the Appalachian mountains each year. The portrayal of this poor community that receives so much from an anonymous benefactor makes me cry every year. I love the message of this little boy who grows up and gives back.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is another tear-jerker. I love the miraculous transformation of this woodcarver as he works on a hand-carved nativity and learns to live again. 

The Tale of Tree Trees is a special book in our family. My husband read this story at the funeral of a dear friend who died of cancer at a young age. To me the message of this story is that even if our lives do not turn out the way we expect, the miracle is that through the power of Jesus Christ, they can become magnificent. 

On a lighter note, we love Santa Calls by William Joyce. It is the cutest story about the relationship between a brother and a sister. I love how they help each other to save Christmas and learn to value their friendship in the process. This is a great reminder if you have sibling rivalry in your home!

It wouldn't be Christmas without The Polar Express. I still want my twenty-year-old to be able to hear  Santa's sleigh bell and believe in the wonder and magic of Christmas. 

The Selfish Giant By Oscar Wilde may be a unique book to put on a Christmas list. It is typically seen as an Easter story but it is one of my children's favorite stories to read at Christmastime each year. There are many versions of this story that is rich in symbolism about Christ but we love this one illustrated by S. Saelig Gallagher. In this story, a picture really is worth a thousand words. The story of Jesus is not just about a baby in a manager. Here His story is told in all of its eternal significance. 

Auntie Calls is just for fun but it has a very timely message: It is better to give than to receive. 

The Last Straw is an original story about humility. You will never hear the expression, "The straw that broke the camel's back" in the same way again. I love the last page where the camel bows to the baby Jesus. 

Christmas Oranges is a beautiful story about sharing. It teaches us that the simplest acts of kindness can mean the most at Christmas time. 

The Miracle of the Wooden Shoes is special to us because it is the story of my grandfather Walter Seiter. It means so much to me, not because of the words that I wrote, but because of the words that I didn't write. On the morning this book went to press, I woke up in a panic. I knew that I had ended the book completely wrong. I hurriedly called my publisher who luckily told me that it wasn't too late to make some changes.

Originally I had ended the story with Walter's excitement to share some chocolate candy with his baby sister Erica who hadn't had chocolate before. This ending seems so incomplete to me now. The words that I was given enriched the story so much more. "Walter struggled to hold back tears as he looked at his family. Jesus Christ knew and loved them. This was the miracle, sweeter to Walter than all the chocolate in his wooden shoes."

May these books fill your home and hearts with the miracle of Christ's love and the wonder of his birth.

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