Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reaching Readers: A Favorite Bookish Holiday Tradition

Before we dive into today's post... if you and yours celebrate a holiday this season, the Kidliterati crew hopes it’s full of magical moments. And to all of our readers everywhere, wishes for happiness and peace!

My kids are eleven, fifteen, and fifteen. They don’t wear matching footie pajamas anymore. They no longer sit (or, more accurately, cry) on Santa’s lap at the mall. They don’t listen intently for the pitter-patter of reindeer hoofs on the rooftop. But for the entire month of December, three towering creatures who now exceed me in height DO still ask for a bedtime story… and they curl up on the couch next to me, by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, to listen.

When I was little, every Christmas Eve would find my younger sister and me in Dad’s lap, listening intently to The Night Before Christmas. He’d read the words (always mispronouncing chimney as chim-a-lee. Why, Dad, why?), we’d wonder aloud who the heck would go to bed wearing a kerchief, and then we’d scramble upstairs to our own sugarplum dreams. That book became linked to some of my happiest childhood memories and I knew when I had children of my own, I wanted to give them the same gift. But, ya know—in the spirit of modern parenting—even better. And bigger.

So nine years ago, when my twin boys were six and my daughter was a toddler, I gathered up every book we owned that referenced the season. Some showed Christmas celebrations familiar to us. Others portrayed different cultural interpretations of the holiday, represented different religious--or pagan--seasonal observances, or were simply winter-themed. Some were handed down, some had been bought by us, and a fair few had been gifted by our doting next-door neighbors. I wrapped them all up, and stuck them under the tree on December 1st. We didn’t quite have twenty-four, so I supplemented with a few perennial favorites (after all, what says “peace on earth” better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Attack?). I brought my wide-eyed children in to peer at the tree and explained that we would open one each night until we reached Christmas Eve. The recordable Hallmark book that captures my dad reading The Night Before Christmas was wrapped in a different colored paper, so we’d know which to save for last.

Needless to say, our inaugural literary advent calendar was a huge success.

This year will mark our ninth go-round and we’ve since amassed enough themed stories to open TWO books a night (so long, mutant turtles)! In the early years, it was all about ripping the paper off those presents, regardless of what lived inside. That was when they were extra little and read-alouds at bedtime happened in every season. These days all three head off to bed with dense books that, if dropped, could take off a toe or two. And yet, each December our literary advent calendar tradition imparts a powerful lesson: None of us are ever too old for picture books (or, for that matter, cuddles).  

Happy holidays!

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