Check out some of the best Christmas read alouds for elementary students including classics from Jan Brett, Tomie dePaola, and Dr. Seuss as well as some new books from Matt Tavares, Eve Bunting and more! Your Kindergarten, first, second, third or fourth graders will love these Christmas picture books. K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students will love these holiday read aloDecember by Eve Bunting Picturebookbrainuds!
Every year it seems like there are some awesome new books out for the holidays. And if you’re still new to teaching, there are a TON of older books that you may not have heard of that are AMAZING. Here I review some of what I would contend are the best Christmas read alouds.
Christmas Read Alouds for Elementary
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Matt Tavares
This is what I’m going to call the definitive version of the poem. Matt Tavares illustrates one of the most iconic stories for Christmas. Tavares’s edition uses the original wording including the reindeer Dunder and Blixem, and he explains the history of the peom in the Illustrator’s Note. The black and white illustrations tie perfectly to the text published originally in 1823. This is a must have version for lower elementary students up through upper elementary.
It’s two weeks before Christmas, and Deja is worried that Santa might not be able to visit her–after all, as a city kid, she doesn’t have a chimney for him to come down and none of the parking spots on her block could fit a sleigh, let alone eight reindeer! But with a little help from her family, community, and Santa himself, Deja discovers that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in her city.
This book tells the story of a homeless mother and son who live in a cardboard box. Even though they’re homeless, they still have a tiny tree decorated with odds and ends and a picture of an angel on their wall. On Christmas Eve a woman comes and knocks on their door and they let her in and share what little they have.
The next morning the woman is gone, but there lives start to change and the next Christmas they have an apartment. A great story for trauma-sensitive teaching and showing a miracle of Christmas.
This tells a story of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City. Red and Lulu are a pair of cardinals who live in a big tree. One day while Red is out getting food to bring back to Lulu, the tree gets cut down. Red returns in time to see the tree being taken away with Lulu trapped inside. He flies after the truck carrying the tree, but he loses it.
Red keeps flying, though, and comes to a big city. He searches and searches and he finds the tree and Lulu! The beautiful story has stunning illustrations and provides more background about the tradition of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. A great story for teaching perseverance.
This new Christmas story from Matt Tavares is soon to be a classic. Dasher is a young female reindeer who travels with her family in a circus. She wants to live where her family is from: the North Pole. Dasher sets off to the North Pole following the North Star.
She finds Santa who is in need of some help. The horse who pulls his sleigh can’t manage to pull his heavy sleigh. Dasher helps him, and Santa makes her Christmas wish come true by bringing the rest of her family to live in the North Pole to help him pull his sleigh. A fun, touching origin story for how reindeer came to pull Santa’s sleigh.
It’s not winter or Christmas without Jan Brett. This Brett story tells the tale of the elf who Santa assigns to training and readying his reindeer for flying his sleigh. The elf tries commanding and controlling the reindeer without getting to know them. They don’t listen to her and both the elf and reindeer get very frustrated.
Eventually, the elf starts to listen to and get to know the reindeer and has them ready just in time. A great story for showing students who important it is to think about others and show empathy even if you are supposed to be in charge.
This tells the classic Nutcracker story in 1920s Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. It allows you to make connections to some of the key players of the jazz scene of the time. Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Ransome adds beautiful illustrations to accompany E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic ballet story. McMorrow adds a note at the end explaining the Harlem Renaissance.
When a jingling sound wakes her from her sleep, a little girl’s dreams come true when she meets a lost reindeer in the forest. They set off on a magical adventure and it becomes a Christmas never to forget. I would almost call this book a mystery story because it leaves enough to make the kids think if it was all a dream or if it really happened.
The Stowell family is abuzz with holiday excitement, and Frankie, the youngest boy, is the most excited of all. But there’s a cloud over the joyous season: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and Pa hasn’t returned yet from his trip to Lansing. He promised to bring back the oranges for the mantelpiece. Every year there are nine of them nestled among the evergreens, one for each of the children. But this year, heavy snows might mean no oranges . . . and, worse, no Pa!
This is a holiday story close to Patricia Polacco’s heart. Frankie was her grandmother’s youngest brother, and every year she and her family remember this tale of a little boy who learned–and taught–an important lesson about giving, one Christmas long ago. A lesser known story that really is one of the best Christmas read alouds out there.
The Legend of the Poinsettia & The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola
Who doesn’t love learning about Christmas around the world? Both of these books by Tomie dePaola are classics telling stories from Christmas in Mexico and Italy. One explains the story of the poinsettia or the Flor de Nochebuena as it’s known in Mexico. The other tells the story of the Italian Christmas Witch Old Befana who visits children on the Epiphany.
The Legend of the Poinsettia is great for any bilingual educators as it can be found in Spanish as La leyenda de la flor de Nochebuena.
This story told through verse tells the tale of an old evergreen who has passed Christmas after Christmas seeing his friends picked to be someone’s special Christmas tree but never being picked himself. He never had said a thing to any of his animal friends until that Christmas. As he slept, then, his animal friends decorated him so that when he awoke he saw how beautiful he was.
This is a book very similar to A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree in how it is told lyrically and is about an imperfect tree that does find itself to be perfect. A small, crookled fir tree is left all alone after the others near it in the forest are chosen by families as Christmas to bring home. But when the forest animals gather around the lonely little tree to cheer it up and celebrate the season, it finds the warmth of the holidays in the heart of a cold, snowy forest. Lovely, more up-to-date illustrations make this a lovely book to compare and contrast with A Wish To Be a Christmas Tree
This is a funny story of how Olive the dog misunderstood the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer song. She heard “Olive the other reindeer…” (“All of the other reindeer”), and she decided that that must mean that she was a reindeer. She went up to the North Pole and helped Santa save Christmas despite not being able to fly. A really funny story about a misunderstanding make this one of the best Christmas read alouds!
This is another funny take on the serious subject of not believing in Santa except in reverse. Santa stops believing in a boy named Harold because he looks different every year, he thinks his parents write his Santa letter, and he’s pretty sure he couldn’t even put out a treat for Santa. Meanwhile, Harold is having some of the same doubt as Santa.
Both Santa and Harold decide to try to catch each other, and they both are surprised on Christmas morning to discover that the other is real! Your kids will die laughing!
This shows a side of Santa that that a lot of kids probably never thought about. It shows what Santa was probably like growing up. He always wore red. Baby Santa loved standing in front of the fridge with the doors open. He also gave his birthday presents away to neighborhood kids. It was a really fun imagining of Santa’s childhood great for describing characters.
Shooting at the Stars is the moving story of a young British soldier on the front lines during World War I who experiences an unforgettable Christmas Eve. In a letter to his mother, he describes how, despite fierce fighting earlier from both sides, Allied and German soldiers ceased firing that evening and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday. They sang carols, exchanged gifts, and even lit Christmas trees. But as the holiday came to a close, they returned to their separate trenches to await orders for the war to begin again.
A really great story for upper elementary who may find interest in this singularly human event in history make this one of the best Christmas read alouds!
This story was from one of my favorite publishers: Candlewick Press. This book was very similar to the rhyme in A Wish To Be a Christmas Tree, but far more upbeat as it deals with only the happy parts of picking a Christmas tree.
Conclusion: Best Christmas Read Alouds: Classics and Honorable Mentions
What are some of your favorite Christmas read alouds? Did I leave out a really good one? Let me know in the comments.