What's better than snuggling up with your family during the holiday season for a good old fashioned Christmas read aloud? Not much, I tell you. When your read aloud choice is a Christmas chapter book, then you are on your way to holiday perfection.
This Christmas read aloud book list includes classic and contemporary choices, short novels for a quick read, fantasy novels for those who want as much magical sparkle as possible, and warm hearted stories about families coming together.
In short, there is the perfect Christmas chapter book read aloud for every family!
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A BOY CALLED CHRISTMAS by Matt Haig
Our family adores this book! It's very funny and über-charming with just the right amount of Dahl-esque humor. When Nikolas' father doesn't return from a journey at the expected time, Nikolas leaves his neglectful aunt and goes off in search of him. Along the way he meets a village of elves and his future is forever changed. Yes, this is now a Netflix film.
WHEN SANTA FELL TO EARTH by Cornelia Funke
We listened to the audiobook of this quirky story about what happens when Niklas Goodfellow, the last real Santa, crash-lands after one of his reindeer gets freaked by a storm. Gerold Geronimus Goblynch, the leader of the Great Christmas Council is determined to put a stop to the Christmas fun. Niklas, with the help of a few children tries to outwit Goblynch and save the holiday magic. I love Funke's ability to write evocative descriptive detail.
LETTERS FROM FATHER CHRISTMAS by J.R.R. Tolkien
When I was a kid, a copy of Letters From Father Christmas always sat under our Christmas tree and I loved to read the letters that Tolkien wrote to his kids every year. I first read the book at the time when I was straddling the line between believing in the Santa who brought me gifts and the one that only lived in stories. The letters which detail the North Pole exploits of Santa, Polar Bear, elves and goblins, are accompanied by Tolkien's imaginative illustrations. Utterly magical.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER by Barbara Robinson
This a modern American classic! The misbehaving Herdman kids–they smoke, steal, play pranks and swear!–decide to take over the church's Christmas pageant. Hilarious hijinks ensue and the Herdman kids reimagine a story they've never heard before (the birth of Jesus), but in the end it is the Herdmans' interpretation of the Christmas story that teaches the community the true meaning of the holiday. Hilarious and touching.
WINTERFROST by Michelle Houts
A nisse is the Danish version of tomte (you will find lots of tomten on my list of Swedish Christmas and holiday books), a small creature in Scandinavian folklore who looks after the farm. Families are supposed to leave the nisse a traditional bowl of Christmas pudding on the eve of the holiday, but this year, Bettina's family is beset by troubles and they forget the pudding. In a fit of mischief, the local nisse, Klakke, steals the family baby! Bettina sets out into the woods to find her sister and encounters more mythological creatures and adventure in this tale of magic and kindness. Break out the pepparkakor because you will love this story.
MORE: Books about Tomten
THE BOX OF DELIGHTS by John Masefield
Kay Harkin meets a strange man on a train. The man gives him a mysterious, magical box which has the ability to shrink people, allow them to time travel and even make them fly. Kay and his friends must protect the box from the villains who want to do away with Christmas. Be sure to get an unabridged version like this one from New York Children's Book Review. A delightful adventure.
THE LAST HOLIDAY CONCERT by Andrew Clements
Clements (author of the very popular Frindle) has an uncanny ability to capture the school environment. In this story, Nicolas and his music teacher have a small run in which leads to the teacher handing over the reigns of the holiday concert to the students. Nicolas must learn how to be a leader, while the teacher (who has recently found out that budget cuts will terminate his job next year) learns a bit of flexibility. A great story that highlights relationship dynamics and cooperation.
NANCY AND PLUM by Betty MacDonald
This 1952 book from the author of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the perfect recipe for an old-fashioned read aloud: two orphaned sisters, an unctuous boarding school mistress who feeds them hard oatmeal, a wealthy bachelor uncle, a Christmas setting and a feel good ending in which evil fails and good triumphs.
THE FAMILY UNDER THE BRIDGE by Natalie Savage Carlson
At Christmas time in Paris, Armand, a self-proclaimed hobo who loves his responsibility-free life, takes a homeless family under his protection. The children wish for a home for Christmas. Armand makes their wish come true, and in doing so he decides it might not be so bad to have permanent ties after all. This is a short novel, and a Newbery Honor recipient, 1959.
WINTERHOUSE (series) by Ben Guterson
Elizabeth's guardians, her aunt and uncle, leave for vacation and mysteriously leave her only a train ticket and $3. The train ride takes Elizabeth to a luxurious and odd hotel. Elizabeth loves to read and has a sixth, extrasensory and magical sense. She makes friends with Freddy, who loves word puzzles and the two of them set about solving the mysteries of the hotel, including an important missing book. A good choice for families with upper elementary and middle school students.
THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS by L. Frank Baum
Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum, tells a fictional origin story of St. Nicholas from birth to old age. This book was the inspiration for the stop motion TV special The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Baum invents wonderful stories to explain traditions like hanging up stockings. We've been listening to the audiobook, Santa Claus in Oz, which also includes Baum's short story, "A Kidnapped Santa Claus." As Baum's work is in the public domain, there are all kinds of terrible editions out there so be cautious about getting a copy with the original illustrations.
THE TRUE GIFT by Patricia MacLachlan
This is a short, lovely novel. Siblings Lily and Liam go to spend Christmas with their grandparents. Liam thinks his grandparents' cow, "White Cow" looks lonely and he sets out to raise money to buy it a companion. He even sells his beloved collection of books. The community comes together to create a wonderful Christmas surprise for both the cow and the children. If you are looking for a heartwarming story that could be made into a Hallmark movie, this is it.
THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET by Karina Yan Glaser
It is just before Christmas and the Vanderbeekers are going to be forced to move from their beloved Harlem brownstone unless they can change the mind of their grumpy landlord who just happens to be their upstairs neighbors. This creative, bi-racial family sets to work to win him over in this heartwarming story the whole family will adore. A read aloud for all ages!
THE LOTTERYS MORE OR LESS by Emma Donoghue
The Lottery family is a large, multicultural, blended, adoptive and homeschooling family. This December, their visitor from Brazil gets injured and has to remain with the family over the holidays. His addition to the festivities–and the Lotterys celebrate everything–from Holi to Christmas to Hogmany, as well as power outages across the city, adds a humorous layer to the already crazy antics of the family. Great fun to read aloud to the whole family.
THE LIGHT AT TERN ROCK by Julia L. Sauer
This very short novel, which received the Newbery Honor in 1952, is just what you want from a story about discovering the meaning of Christmas, despite the total lack of Christmas imagery on the cover! Ronnie enjoys spending time with his Aunt Martha in the lighthouse but he looks forward to returning home for Christmas. However, the lighthouse keeper doesn't return on time and Ronnie must come to terms with the idea of having to spend Christmas at the isolated location.
THE YULE TOMTE AND THE LITTLE RABBITS by Ulf Stark
This marvelously illustrated book contains 24 short chapters. One chapter is to be read on each day of advent. Grump the tomte is waiting for Yule (Christmas) when all of a sudden a wind blows his mittens and hat away and into the hands of a couple of rabbits. The rabbits are delighted with their strange gifts but the tomte worries he won't be able to bring Christmas to the forest without the necessary garments. A delightful story.
We recommend patronizing your library or local independent bookseller. If you choose to purchase books online, consider Bookshop, which supports independent bookstores. You can find all my children's Christmas book lists curated in one list at Bookshop here.