Before we begin, let me put some fears to rest. This is not a health and fitness post. I will not be sharing the latest 10 ways to lose 10 pounds before Christmas. Sadly, in our society diet has become synonymous with ways to lose weight. In its simplest form, diet means the food and drink we consume. This post will not be about the food and drink I will be eating after Thanksgiving. Instead, I want to talk about my holiday reading diet. It can be easy to get busy during the holiday season. There’s this feeling that you need to rush here, rush there, buy this, buy that, and then there’s all the cooking, baking, and gift wrapping. It can leave some people feeling like there isn’t much time for anything else.
This year I want to try something new. Actually, it’s a combination of things I’ve been thinking of and something I saw on Pinterest.
Now that I’m not a regular classroom teacher, and I don’t even have a regular sized room, most of my picture books now live at home. I love Christmas books (and have quite a collection). I consider them a genre onto themselves. I have your classics like Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, The Grinch, and Polar Express. I did enjoy sharing those with my students, but there were others that I enjoyed just as much (if not more). The first is The Jolly Christmas Postman.
The original Jolly Postman and Other People’s Stories was a favorite growing up. My sister and I love all the other little letters and goodies that were part of the overall story and how readers had to think about the fairy tales and nursery rhymes the learned as young children. The Christmas version is no different. Many of your favorite fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters are back for the Christmas season. The Jolly Postman delivers cards and gifts to all of them. Along the way we find out that Goldilocks has a new sibling, and so does Bear. At the end of the story it is snowing really hard, the Jolly Postman has had a little too much Christmas cheer (wink, wink) making it hard to ride his bike. On his way home he stumbles upon Santa’s workshop, and gets a sleigh ride home. It’s just a nice story about giving and sharing at Christmas.
One of the themes of Christmas I tried to have my 5-7-year-old students understand was the idea that there is more to Christmas than just getting the newest toy or most of the toys on your list. One book that illustrated this theme was Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant.
I love how the main character in this book never really gets what he wants for Christmas but always gets what he needs. I think that is an important lesson for today’s youth who many are so used to getting what they want they never stop to think about what they need. This is a great picture book for older students but don’t be afraid to use it with younger. It usually took me two days to read and discuss this book when I taught kindergarten.
Along the same lines of getting what you need instead of what you want is the idea of over giving and going over the top. I know I’ve been guilty of buying too for Christmas. Sadly, I don’t even know if the recipients even remember many of those gifts. Clark Griswold in Nation Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was also guilty of being over the top at Christmas and in the process missed out on spending time with his family. Mr. Merriweather is the same and is the main character in David Shannon’s The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza. Yes, the same David Shannon of the David books, Duck on a Bike, and Alice the Fairy.
Hands down I would have to say that this is my all time favorite Christmas picture book. Similar to Silver Packages, the message is that stuff isn’t the most important part of Christmas. One of the themes in this book is the idea that bigger isn’t better as Mr. Merriweather’s displays get crazy and cause others in the community to adjust their Christmas traditions (too many cars and horns honking for Christmas caroling, the display pulls too much energy that ovens can’t get hot enough to bake). When Mr. Merriweather’s family start to not enjoy his hard work you would think he would stop, but he doesn’t. In the end Mr. Merriweather learns the lesson that Christmas is more than decorations. Also, the ending leaves it open for how Mr. Merriweather might go overboard on an upcoming spring holiday. That would be a great writing extension.
These books will be part of my after Thanksgiving reading diet, either in school with a third grade classroom a teacher lets me read in or with my own children at home. While I will include the usual Santa books I really want to make sure that my reading diet (and my children’s listening diet) if full of stories that focus on others and are about the true meaning of Christmas. The story I hope to consume as part of my after Thanksgiving reading diet is Refugee by Alan Gratz.
It is three refugee stories, at three different times in history, all in one story.
I better get wrapping if I’m going to have all 24 books wrapped by Friday!
What do you hope to put on your after Thanksgiving reading diet?