Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Christmas Book Countdown

As many of you are aware, every year for the past several years I have wrapped up all of our Christmas picture books for my kids to open as they countdown to Christmas Day. I initially got this idea from Amy at Hope is the Word who does the same for her family. The idea is this: collect mass quantities of Christmas titles for your home collection (heh) and then each day one or more children can open one or more of the Christmas book packages to be read altogether. We usually open our books up in the morning, along with our advent calendar candy. (This way the kids can always be smacking in my ear as I am reading to them. Some year I will figure out how to separate these two activities but at the present they really love sitting down to eat candy during the reading time. I therefore struggle to concentrate heavily on the story, not being an enormous fan of smacking lips. I have, howeverlearned to avoid crunchy things.)

Now, for us, I like lining up the books that we read with particular activities. So, the first thing I do is start ordering out our Christmas parties and then I might schedule in some special family activities or movie nights with particular themes in mind. Example: I select in advance the day we will watch The Polar Express and then I wrap up the Polar Express book and "schedule" it for the same calendar day. And then every day leading up to that day I hear the begging and pleading from Bookworm2 that we get out all things Polar Express (his favorite story). The children have learned that when they open the Frosty the Snowman book that means that they get to watch that movie the same day. They have definitely learned that the books can be a tip off for events in the evening and that also adds to the excitement level. We've had some books in our collection now for long enough that my oldest two eagerly await "finding" them in the stack and cheers have been known to erupt when they finally open the book of choice. (Bookworm1 was really excited to open up The Christmas Story: The Brick Bible - linked to thoughts - this past weekend. No, I haven't gotten rid of yet. But Mater Saves Christmas did bite the dust.)

Let me be clear: this tradition takes a lot of work. It typically takes me 2-3 hours one evening to sit down with the calendar, stack the books in order and get them all wrapped up. In some ways it's a bit of a pain. But in most every other single way, it is a delight to be able to do this for my kids and I can't recommend the practice highly enough. It is something that they look forward to and, truth be told, I do also. (Because I forget which order I have placed the and sometimes I'm surprised myself! Such is my memory.) Ha!

Now, as I talk about our habits with the books, I also try to share about some of the ones in our home library and give a quick review. Here are some links to past reviews/titles which I have shared:

All of the above titles are still included in our collection. That said, at the end of last year I culled our stack a bit, eliminating some titles that I didn't care for as much. At the beginning of this year, I replaced some with new titles I had researched.

Here are two of our new titles:

Good King Wenceslas was one I researched a bit. My kids especially love books which invite you to sing and I wanted to find a book based on a lesser-known-but-still-familiar carol. I know the song of Good King Wenceslas but I don't think I've ever paid much attention to the words before. I found this edition on Amazon and liked the classical look of it. We read it for the first time the other day and I absolutely love it.

You do sing the song as you read the book but the verses are broken up and mixed into the story of the Good King who sees a peasant gathering wood for a fire. The king and his page boy go out to help the begger and take him some food. The king spends an enjoyable evening with the "least of these" in this kingdom before returning to his palace as the song and story go. And, as I say, as you read along the story you pause to sing the various verses.

This book includes a DVD which is narrated by Jane Seymour and sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I can't tell you how the DVD is because I couldn't bear the Amazon price for the book. I purchased this one through a third party seller on Amazon but the DVD was not included. (The price, however, was more to my liking!) I'm glad I picked this one up. I think it's a great addition to our collection.

The next book I purchased was one that we had previewed from our local library last year. We borrowed The Christmas Train: A True Story land I absolutely fell in love with it. I stuck it on my Amazon wishlist until such a time came to feel comfortable with the price. (Again though, I picked up a used "like new" copy via third party seller. However, I also bought a brand new copy to be gifted to some friends of ours this year.)

This book tells the true story of a little boy who was given an electric train from his parents for Christmas. His mother has also purchased a wind-up train to gift to a neighborhood boy who is "less fortunate" then he. When he discovers the gratitude which exists in the friend who has a mere wind-up train, he feels remorseful over his own attitude of greed.

Now, I'm not a proponent (in the very least) of making anyone feel guilty for receiving good gifts. I hope I give my children good gifts and I trust they will enjoy them as they should. There is nothing wrong with the giving and receiving of good gifts. (I've already argued this.) I like this book though because the message is delivered in a way that doesn't beat you over the head with false guilt, but makes the reader to know that they ought to be thankful for everything that they have received. The message isn't, "Oh, he got a simple train and you got a fancy one. You should give yours away." Rather, the message is: "Maintain a proper attitude concerning what you have been given."

Give and receive, but do both joyfully! This is a lesson I hope that my children learn well in this life. We should always look to bless and receive the blessings with thanksgiving. God is generous to us and we, in turn, ought to be generous towards others. These are the messages of this book and so I love it. I whole heartedly love it and am happy to have it among our collection.

Now, just because we have a nice collection of books doesn't mean that I'm necessarily done with my set. There are still books among my stack that I would weed out if I were to come across a better one. I'm always up for suggestions! If there is a Christmas picture book that you and yours have loved, please tell me about it! I'd love to hear from you in the comment section with recommendations of your own.

In the meantime, I hope you all are having a fun December celebrating time with your loved ones and are pursuing a few fun traditions of your own.



*carrie* said...

This is a great idea. In fact, your post about it a couple years ago inspired me to do the same. My modified version the last two years was to "wrap" a book each day in a Christmas pillowcase (to save the time and trash of paper wrappings), and the older kids would take turns each day opening the book.

I'm not as on the ball this year in terms of preparation, so I've just been pulling out a couple Christmas books every few days to freshen up the reading pile. That's working well for us right now!

I do like the idea of coordinating the book to an activity. Maybe someday. =)

Barbara H. said...

I like the idea of coordinating the activities with the book, too. I don't know if I'd wrap them - I'd probably just rotate them - but I can imagine it does give them a thrill to be able to unwrap something each day. I'll have to keep these titles in mind for when T gets a little older.

Bluerose said...

This is such a great idea! I started collecting books to have enough for each day(I think a couple of years ago), and more recently realized I had a bunch of junk books. I only kept our favorites and they're in a basket in our living room. I'd still love to do this eventually, though! I imagine there are lots of special memories happening.

One of my favorites is Sister Bear(Yolen). It's a beautiful book, but it does have trolls in there. (I think I recall your oldest bookworm not dealing with certain creepy things.) It's the perfect "fairy tale" for Christmas time, though...super sweet, with a bow on top. :)

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