December Holiday Language & Literacy Books

Children enjoy children’s literature throughout the year and December is an ideal time to finish the year using excellent books in speech/language therapy, the classroom, and during family literacy time. These are my recommendations for December Holiday Language & Literacy Books.

The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. Mc Morrow

This is an amazing book that is set during the Harlem Renaissance era in New York City. It was a time of heightened artistic and intellectual expression. Blacks during this time truly flourished in many ways. Some were a part of the great migration from the South while others lived in the Northeast for some time. Many Caribbean people also went to NYC and became a vibrant part of NY society. I love how this book transports the reader to a different time period and evokes them to imagine along with Marie the main character. The book opens with Marie the beautiful girl on the cover gathered around the love of her family at a holiday party. You can almost hear the tunes of the piano and chatter in the background as you read the pages. Then the scene changes to her opening a present, the nutcracker. What transpires after that will spark the curiosity of children. I recommend this book for children in grades 2nd-5th. It’s an excellent book to enjoy the whimsical moments of the season while also making inferences about certain story events. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to provide historical information about the Harlem Renaissance era. Here is an excellent read aloud.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

Books in this Bear series are a favorite for many children, SLPs, and teachers. This book is great for children in preschool and kindergarten-2nd grade. In this story, Bear, is sleeping in his cave. His animal friends are eager for him to wake up and stay awake for the special Christmas holiday. The friends go looking for the perfect tree in the woods and hoist in on Bear’s back to decorate his lair or cave. They hang stockings by the fire light and Bear is busy preparing food and gifts for Christmas morning. His friends fall asleep on Christmas Eve while he stays awake until Christmas morning. You can use my WH Questions quick listening comprehension activity after an interactive read aloud of this book.

Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel

This is a fun and light hearted book that is great for children and families to get an introduction into the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah or Festival of Lights that celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem. This children’s literature selection is a fiction tale about an elderly lady who is expecting the Rabbi or leader of the temple to visit one Hanukkah night. However, she does not see very well and mistakes an unusual visitor, Bear, as the Rabbi. She is so excited to have the Rabbi in her home that she serves him all the delicious Potato Latkes that she made. This is a traditional dish that is served in many Jewish homes during Hanukkah. It is fried in oil and reminds families of the Hanukkah miracle in which there was enough oil to light the menorah for 8 days rather than just one. She plays dreidel and even gives Bear a special gift, a winter scarf. It is not until other family and friends come knocking at her door that she realizes that her special visitor was not the Rabbi but in fact a real bear! Yikes! Children will get a kick out of this story. Remember, as adults you set the stage when using books at home, in speech/language therapy, or the classroom. Kids will be interested in certain stories when you present them in an engaging manner. Here is a read aloud of this book.

Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez

Grandma’s Gift is a heartwarming story about a boy who spends his winter break from school with his grandma because his parents have to work. She picks him up from school and they go shopping for special items for a family holiday dinner. They even take a special trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC so that he can complete an assignment for school. While there his grandmother spots a portrait of a famous artist that she recognizes. This sparks the little boy’s interest as he aspires to be an artist one day. This is a good book for young boys to know that they too can achieve what they desire. It is equally important that their interests are encouraged like the grandmother did in this book.

The author, Eric Velasquez, is an Afro-Puerto Rican author from Harlem, New York. This book won a Pura Bulpre award and he was awarded the Coretta Scott King Award and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.

Dasher by Matt Tavares

Children and adults get excited for Christmas and winter break! Children love this book and I do too! It’s amazing how much they enjoy the magical and imaginative element of the holiday season. Matt Tavares wrote this captivating story about Dasher, a young reindeer, who embarks on a journey to follow the North Star. It’s definitely different than the usual Rudolph story. Mother reindeer tells Dasher all about life at the North Pole. Unfortunately, their reindeer family is now a part of a traveling circus owned by grouchy Mr. Finnegan. Luckily one night, Dasher escapes the circus and meets important characters in a pivotal moment. What will occur as the story unfolds? Use my WH Questions, quick listening comprehension activity, after an interactive read aloud of the story.

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

This is a new book that I discovered this year while shopping for new books for my niece. It tells the story of Red & Lulu, two birds who reside in a tall evergreen tree outside a family’s home. They love all the seasons of the year but especially winter because the family would decorate it with lights and join in with singing. One cold morning, Red, the cardinal flies off to find breakfast. Upon returning back she witnesses the tree being cut down and hauled away on the back of a flatbed truck. Where is Lulu? Red follows the truck above the interstate and across bridges until he loses sight of the tree. Now in a new and unusual place, Red searches for his beloved Lulu in a big city. One night, he hears voices singing their favorite song. Red follows the familiar tune and is amazed with what he sees! He’s ecstatic! The illustrations by Matt Tavares are inviting and capture the season. I recommend this book for family literacy time to build a love for different kinds of books and essentials skills. Add it to your library for future speech/language sessions or educator lessons too. There are numerous extension activities that you can do to facilitate building communication and language skills. The author was inspired to write this book thanks to the red cardinals who frequented his backyard and by reflecting about the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree in NYC. Here’s a great read aloud of the book.

I hope that you discovered some new books to use in speech/language therapy sessions, in the classroom, or at home with your kids during December. I enjoy sharing my children’s literature recommendations. It’s great to visit my website each year for updates. Here is a look at Winter speech/language activities. I wish you all the best in the New Year! Make it great on purpose!

Tamara Anderson, M.S., Ed.S, CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist

Education Specialist/Consultant

Diversity & Equity Advocate

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