The holiday season is such an exciting and fun time for children (and adults, too!). Beyond the joy of gifts and food, we love to spend time together, reflect on the past year, and look forward to the future during the holidays.
Since so many people celebrate holidays in the winter, another fun part of the holiday season is taking the time to learn about cultures outside of your own. In our own families, we do this by reading children’s books about other holidays and learning about their traditions. When children learn about other cultures, they become more empathetic and compassionate to people that are different from themselves.
To help you and your family learn about other cultures and holiday traditions around the world, we rounded up some of our favorite holiday books for kids. Let’s make this holiday season the best one yet!
Holiday books for kids
Christmas books for kids
Even if your child doesn’t celebrate Christmas, they have probably come across Christmas themed decor, movies, and songs during the holiday season. There are a lot of Christmas tropes and characters that have made their way into our daily lives. Therefore, reading Christmas books and learning about the Christmas traditions around the world can help your child understand more about the holiday and what they can gain from the message.
- The Christmas Pine by Julia Donaldson. Telling the beautiful story of a pine tree in Norway that travels all the way to London to become their first Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, The Christmas Pine includes history about World War II and a strong message about peace and friendship.
- A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman. This is a great multicultural book for children to learn about how different cultures celebrate Christmas. It’s a fun way to tour the world and explore Christmas traditions for families who do and don’t celebrate Christmas.
- The Christmas Truck by J.B. Blankenship. This Christmas book features a family with 2 dads and shows the joy that comes with helping others. It is a great book for children to learn about the importance of spreading joy and kindness during the holiday season. Plus, it shows that not all families look the same!
- May Your Life Be Deliciosa by Michael Genhart. Together on Christmas Eve, Rosie, her abuela, and her family work together to make tamales, tell stories, and prepare for another year full of happiness, warmth, and spice. May Your Life Be Deliciosa is a beautiful book for all families to enjoy while gaining valuable life lessons.
- Native American Twelve Days of Christmas by Gary Robinson. A new take on the traditional carol, which highlights a cultural background for each day's gift in an easy-to-understand manner, placing the adapted song lyrics in the context of twelve Native American cultural groups from different parts of the U.S.
Hanukkah children’s books
The story of Hanukkah is one of perseverance, hope, and faith during difficult times. It sends a great message to children about staying true to their beliefs and resolute in their missions. Reading these Hanukkah children’s books as a family can help your child learn more about the Festival of Lights and understand the traditions of Jewish families.
- Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael J Rosen. In this beautiful Hanukkah book, a brother and sister count all of the lights around them to remind them that the joy of Hanukkah is all around them. It’s a great story to read to families who do and don’t celebrate Hanukkah because it encourages them to discover the beauty of lights everywhere.
- D is for Dreidel: A Hanukkah Alphabet Book by Greg Paprocki. In D is for Dreidel, each letter is accompanied by a Hanukkah themed word, which makes the book educational for families who want their children to learn more about Hanukkah and the alphabet!
- Hanukkah, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg. With this collection of fun and funny Hanukkah poems, children can learn about the Hanukkah traditions and story. Plus, it includes a sheet of Hanukkah stickers!
- Latkes and Applesauce: A Hanukkah Story by Fran Manushkin. This is a great Hanukkah book for children who love animals. When a blizzard arrives on Hanukkah, the Menashes decide to be kind and share their food with a stray dog and cat. Luckily for them, the animals save the Hanukkah celebrations!
- Hanukkah in Little Havana by Julie Anna Blank. This Hanukkah children’s book shows that Hanukkah can be celebrated anywhere. In Little Havana, they celebrate by dancing the salsa, eating grapefruit and oranges, making latkes and buñuelos stuffed with almonds and guava jelly, and spending time together.
Kwanzaa books for kids
Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African American culture. It is always held from December 26 to January 1. It was created by activist Maulana Karenga in 1966, based on African harvest festival traditions. Each of the 7 days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to a different principle: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
Reading these Kwanzaa books for kids with your family can help share these important messages and teach your children about another culture and holiday tradition this winter.
- Kwanzaa Gets an A by Steven Christopher Thedford. The author of Kwanzaa Gets an A did thorough research on the history of the holiday before writing this interactive picture book. As the griot (narrator) tells the story, the children respond Ashe (ah-Shay), a West African word that means to bring about change. It is a great book for all families to read and learn about this important holiday.
- Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L Washington. The story of Li'l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa: coming together to help others. It is a wonderful story about trying to help another on your own and then realizing that sometimes, you need to lean on each other to help. It fits beautifully into the 7 principles of Kwanzaa and spreads a great message to children.
- Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis. This book explains the 7 principles of Kwanzaa through a story about 7 brothers who must work together to make gold out of thread in one day. It is a beautiful story that everyone can benefit from reading.
- It’s Kwanzaa Time with Imani by Tori Ellis. In this picture book, children can follow along with Imani as she prepares for Kwanzaa. Together, you will learn about the 7 principles and get ready for the big feast. Your family will learn about the activities and traditions that are part of this exciting holiday.
- The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L Washington. In a straightforward picture book, families can learn about the Kwanzaa story and the traditions of the holiday with beautiful illustrations.
We hope this list of holiday books for kids has provided the inspiration you need to refresh your library and get your little ones even more excited for the holiday season. If you are looking for fun online and in-person activities, check out what our educators have to offer on Sawyer! Happy holidays, everyone!