5 Great Children’s Holiday Books to Read This Season

I don’t know about you, but as soon as we get past Halloween I’m ready to get into the winter-holiday spirit! And if you ask me, there’s no better way to do this than by cozying up with a good book.

If you’re looking for some holiday book ideas to read with your little ones this year, you’ve come to the right place. This list of five children’s holiday books goes beyond Santa and Rudolph to highlight some more diverse holiday stories, each with its own special message to share.

1. Snicker’s Wish by L.B. Anne

First on my list is L.B. Anne’s Snicker’s Wish, which tells the story of a girl born on Christmas day. Snicker, nicknamed for her mother’s favorite cookie, is granted one extraordinary wish on her birthday each year — but it must reflect pure love and selflessness. This comes into play when a young boy named Jared realizes his sister is missing; will holiday magic be enough to reunite them?

Snicker’s Wish is a heartfelt tale of hope and love, demonstrating the miracles that can happen through simple acts of kindness. The unique concept along with the story’s twists and turns make this an exciting read, perfect as a Christmas stocking stuffer for kids aged 9-12.

2. Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Kwanzaa, the African American celebration of community, family, and culture, takes place annually. In Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa, Donna Washington’s well-crafted story and Shane Evans’ vibrant illustrations beautifully capture this holiday’s spirit.

The story commences with our titular Li’l Rabbit struggling to find his place among the celebrations. Still determined to play his part, he decides to do everything he can to find exactly the right gift for Granna Rabbit. When his family and friends come together and offer a helping hand, Li’l Rabbit experiences the true meaning of Kwanzaa after all. 

With some characters who celebrate Kwanzaa and others who don’t, this book is a great way to introduce the holiday to any eager young reader! The bright, textured illustrations and explanations of potentially new concepts also make this children’s book an ideal classroom read for the holiday season. Bonus points for the author’s fabulous author bio, stating that she “uses vivid facial expressions, non-pedestrian movement, and vocal pyrotechnics to bring her stories to life. She has been called “a walking Disney movie” and told she was “better than television!

3. The Christmas Truck by J.B. Blankenship, illustrated by Cassandre Bolan

Dad, Papa, and their son hope to spread Christmas cheer to a child less-fortunate in The Christmas Truck, a touching picture book by J.B. Blankenship. It’s a story that marvelously embodies the generosity of the season, with beautiful illustrations by Cassandre Bolan that are sure to enthrall any young reader’s imagination. 

Diverse holiday books that aren’t completely based on their own diversity can be hard to come by — that’s what makes The Christmas Truck so refreshing. The “two dads” plot point is not at all what drives the story forward and isn’t treated as anything unusual or different; instead, it’s the entire family’s mission and actions that we’re eager to watch unfold. If you’re looking for a low-key way to introduce nuclear-family children to all the different types of families, this book could be the answer. 

4. Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas celebrates the merging of two cultures that aren’t often pictured side-by-side in children’s books. Indeed, with an Indian mom and a Jewish dad, Sadie and her brother love their special holiday traditions — like tasty Indian dosas instead of latkes for Hanukkah. But when the family gets locked out of the house at the height of their celebration, will they be able to enjoy their dal-stuffed treats?

This funny, sweet children’s story not only covers the unique cultural ground but also sibling relationships and how families can work together to solve a problem. With illustrations by Anjan Sarkar that are bound to make your mouth water, this book is a lovely way to embrace new cultures this holiday season.

5. N Is for Navidad by Susan Middleton Elya and Merry Banks

Christmas traditions look different all over the world — from the Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines to Krampus (the Christmas devil) in Austria. In N Is for Navidad, Susan Middleton Elya and Merry Banks introduce some Latino Christmas traditions with catchy rhymes and heartwarming illustrations. 

Don’t worry if you’re not a fluent Spanish speaker, either — the book comes with a handy pronunciation guide and translations for each alphabetical concept. Whether it’s read in the classroom or at home, this holiday book is sure to open children’s eyes to a culture outside of their own, or allow them to share their own family traditions with friends. 

Whatever holidays you’re celebrating this year, it’s always fascinating and fun to learn about other cultures and traditions — and hopefully, this list has given you a great place to start. Don’t forget that you can look these books up in your local independent bookstores, instead of Amazon, to support a small business. Happy holidays and happy reading!

A very special thank you to guest writer Rose Atkinson-Carter. Rose is a writer with Reedsy, where she advises authors on all things writing and publishing, from editing and finding a literary agent to figuring out standard book sizes. She lives in London.

Reflections on Thankfulness

Tis’ the season of thankfulness. Thankfulness is giving thanks to the people, things, or places that have brought happiness and joy to our lives. During this season of my life, I am thankful for my family, loved ones, education, happiness, and of course, A to Z Literacy Movement. My family has been my rock these past four years and I am beyond thankful for their continuous support in helping me achieve my dreams. I have been blessed to receive an amazing education through my university. As I approach the second semester of my senior year, more than ever, I am thankful for the high-quality education and how it is shaping me to be the educator I will be in the future. Last but certainly not least, I am beyond thankful for A to Z. This organization is near and dear to my heart because it combines both of my passions of teaching and giving back to the community. Life has given me so many opportunities to be thankful, all of which have contributed to my happiness. When I live a thankful life, I live a happy life. I look towards opportunities, people, and places that I am grateful for and it has led me to have a happy life and appreciate all the beauty around me.

On behalf of our A to Z Literacy Team, we are beyond thankful for your continuous support in helping us bring our mission to life. This past year, we had a strong community of supporters with donations of books, donations of time, and generous monetary donations at our annual fundraiser. We are thankful to all of you for the success we have had this year which includes giving over 1,000 children’s books away through our summer school outreach program. So many grateful families appreciated our holiday book giveaway at a local food pantry, gifting families with holiday-wrapped children’s books. In addition, we provided a scholarship to Jonathan Mwale to cover his tuition and expenses for his third year at the University of Lusaka in Zambia. We are thankful for your continuous support to be able to change the world one book and one student at a time.

(Thanks to Jalisa Cruz, our guest blogger and A to Z team member)

Toes in the Sand, Nose in a Book!

By Betty Trummel

It might be back to school time for some of you out there, but September here on Cape Cod is the best time to head to the beach!  There’s still time for long walks, swimming in the waves (the water has finally warmed up), building sandcastles, and most especially reading lots of great books!

While I often bring books from home, I also check out the Bank Street Little Free Library to see what’s been left behind by tourists or locals.  Or, as it happened the other day, a woman lounging in her beach chair near me commented that she saw me intently reading my most recent selection, and offered to trade books with me when I was finished.  We had a great discussion about what we were reading, and it was fun to swap books! We now call ourselves “beach book buddies” and have been not only passing books between us, but with other people at our favorite beach.

I see so many people reading while at the beach…and I’m always scoping out the titles of their books to see what’s popular and get ideas for future reading.  Kids often have books with them as well…and it’s a great break from swimming or digging in the sand. 

Whatever you’ve done this summer…I hope it included some time for reading!  This month you’ll find me at Bank Street Beach with my toes in the sand, and my nose in a book!

A to Z’s AmaZing Race

Get your traveling team together and please join us for our inaugural road rally and FUNdraiser.

What to Expect:

The road rally will start at Hickory Hall where you will be given your first clue. From there, you and your team (2-8 people) will travel to a different location in Crystal Lake to receive your next clue to figure out.

The quicker you can solve clues and travel to specific locations – the better chances you will have to win prizes! There will also be a few fun activities/roadblocks for your team to complete at some stops along the way.

What You Need:

Bring your sense of humor and love of Crystal Lake to finish the race and win fun prizes!

You can purchase tickets on our website for $50 per person or score a deal with $175 for a 4-pack. We will add your name to the list of road rally racers! 

You do not want to miss A to Z’s AmaZing Race!

This year we are trying something new for our annual FUNdraiser and hope you will join us on Saturday, August 27th from 6:30-10:00 PM for A to Z’s AmaZing Race road rally. Yep, this fundraiser is going to be one to remember with lots of laughs while benefitting a great cause!

The road rally will kick off at Hickory Hall where you will be given your first clue. From there, you and your team (2-8 people) will travel to a different location in Crystal Lake to receive your next clue to figure out and then travel on to another location in the race. The quicker you can solve clues and travel to specific locations – the better chances you will have to win prizes! There will also be a few fun activities/roadblocks for your team to complete at some stops along the way. Head to our website for tickets and ask a friend (or two) to join your team. We will add your name to the list of road rally racers.

Special Thanks: A to Z Literacy Movement is funded by individual donors like you and we are grateful for your continued support as we celebrate 13 years of promoting the love of reading by getting books into the hands of children.

Save the Date for A to Z’s AmaZing Race

Get your traveling team together and join us for our inaugural road rally and fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 27th from 6:30 – 10:00. Yes, we decided to switch things up a bit after a two-year COVID delay and create a fun race around Crystal Lake paying homage to our city and some iconic locations. 

We invite you to start your engines and embark on a road rally with clues to solve, trivia to figure out, and roadblocks to get around. The AmaZing Race will be held at Hickory Hall where racers will be given their first clue to begin their adventure. Teams can range in size from two to six people and tickets will go on sale on August 1st via our website.

As always, all money donated will directly help us to forward our mission and meet our goals to strengthen and improve the literacy lives of students locally and globally.

Where I Come From

Where I come from, it’s a unique opportunity for one to make it to the university level because of how hard and expensive it is to get there. I’m one of the very few people to make it to the university in my family and my community. In that regard, many of my family and friends ask me about my experiences and stories at school. This gives me the sense that I represent them there. I love how during my study break and exam period, my mom and friends call to check and see if I’m awake and studying or to wake me up or tell me to rest. This tells me that a lot of people around me are part of this journey. And when my school days are hard, they give me the extra fuel to see me through to the next day. I am so lucky to have this atmosphere of people around me and I feel so responsible. I believe my joy is their joy.

In that regard, before I make a decision, I think about what my A to Z Literacy Movement family, my mom, and everyone else would say or feel, knowing that what I am deciding doesn’t only affect me but everyone who tirelessly works hard to make sure I’m in school. I’m honored to be at the University of Lusaka, one of the best universities in Zambia. Thank you, everyone, for making my dream a reality. I am grateful to be a Bachelor of Medicine student finishing my first year with success. For that, I thank you for all the support and I will continue to give it my all just as you have given me everything.

(Thank you, Jonathan Mwale, for this week’s blog post. We are so proud of his dedication to not only change his life but to make a positive impact within his family and community.)

Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, Today!

Independent bookstores have been a staple in my life and in the life of so many people I know.  Are they a staple in your life?

For the past twenty years, I have lived in Crystal Lake, IL. When I first moved to Crystal Lake, I found myself driving to Naperville to visit Anderson’s Book Shop. It was a joyous Saturday trip for me and my young daughter, Emma.  As Emma grew, we enjoyed many events at Anderson’s.  One I will always remember was meeting Suzanne Collins.  Emma was a huge fan of The Hunger Games series and Suzanne was her idol.  Over the years, Emma wasn’t the only one to enjoy Anderson’s with me.  My son, Michael, and I have also made the trek. Of course, my friends and I have also ventured to Anderson’s for events. Most recently, I enjoyed my visit with my friends to celebrate John Schu’s This is a School. It brought such joy to our hearts. 

When Read Between the Lynes opened in Woodstock, my access to a local independent bookstore increased and my ability to visit became more frequent.  Just like Becky Anderson, Arlene Lynes brought events to the bookstore that will forever remain a sacred memory for me.  You can only imagine my delight when Abalabix Books opened in Crystal Lake last year.  It has been a joy to visit Diane Sterverson on such a frequent basis and my library is expanding daily!

I don’t only visit independent bookstores near home. I’ve also found myself drawn to independent bookstores while I am vacationing.  My husband, Mike, has grown to accept this habit.  Today, on Independent Bookstore Day, I am on vacation at our cabin in Wisconsin.  I won’t be able to visit Becky, Arlene, or Diane today, but I will make my way to The Shade Tree in Minocqua–my favorite local bookstore up north. 

What are your plans for the day?  Consider finding a local bookstore near you!

Thanks to Anastasia Gruper for today’s blog post.

There’s Something Different In the Air

This week I went to the Cary Public Library post-book sale giveaway for non-profits. You may or may not know, but libraries are an integral part of our mission. Many area libraries have regular book sales from their collections to the public. Afterward, they invite not-for-profit organizations, homeschooling families, preschools, and the like to come and take anything they like from the leftovers. 

Like so many other times when I was browsing the children’s titles, other women and a few kids were there gathering as well. But this time, the spontaneous conversation was friendlier between the folks dropping books into their respective boxes. People inquired what organization I represented. They responded with kind, supportive words when they found out what A to Z Literacy Movement does. One woman wanted our contact information, as she may have some books to offer to us in the future. Later, when another patron accidentally started flipping through the first lady’s pile of books that she’d set aside to take home, the response from the former was kind and understanding rather than competitive, which I have seen at previous book giveaways. “We are in this world together,” said the first. “That is so true,” said the second. 

Another interaction I had with a woman and her child resulted in the woman asking if I could take a donation right then and there. I have never had this happen in my ten-plus years of gathering books for A to Z Literacy. Since I am the treasurer, I happily accepted the $20 bill the woman pulled from her purse because what I told her about our work giving books to children, “spoke to her heart.”

I’m not sure if it is a result of a post-Covid world, a world where Russia is actively attacking Ukraine bringing out our empathy, or if it is something else, but I received more than some fine books that we can pass along to the young generation at the giveaway at Cary Library. I received a reminder that we ARE in this world together. Helping others is something that everyone should do in some kind way at various points in their lives. And even showing an interest in other people’s passions is a stepping stone to greater conversations.

Blog Post by Pat Kelly, A to Z Literacy Movement Treasurer and Book Gatherer

Valuable Local Library Donations

Since I attend a college out of state, I get the privilege of being able to extend the A to Z Literacy Movement beyond Illinois and Zambia, but to Michigan as well.  As a junior at Oakland University, my classes are embedded in elementary schools, and this semester I am placed in the city of Troy. As I have been working in the Troy School District, I have learned so much about the city’s history and learned a lot about schools, libraries, and other important landmarks. Due to the close connection I have with the schools, I reached out to Friends of the Troy Library and they generously donated 9 boxes of books to our organization. These books include chapter books, nonfiction books, dictionaries, workbooks, and much more. The Friends of the Troy Library were kind, supportive, and are excited to continue to donate to our organization. Troy Library is helping us strive towards our mission – the movement to provide literacy for students all over the world. It is because of organizations, like the Friends of the Troy Library, that we are able to provide high-quality children’s books to students all over the world. With these donations, A to Z Literacy Movement continues to improve the literacy lives of students one book at a time.

-Jalisa Cruz