Fifteen Favorite Holiday Reads

Some of the most wonderful (but often overlooked) things about the Christmas season are the stories, and the songs, and the poems, and the plays!  Here are some of my favorites that I think you might enjoy sharing with your students.

This post is an update of an older one, Fifteen Favorite Stories, which I originally posted at Middle School Mob. I’ve added a few more favorite stories and left off some non-fiction articles that no longer seem to be readily available.

This list includes classic stories, funny poems, informational articles, and a play. Some of the stories are in the public domain, and others are not. Where possible, I’ve include links so that you can check them out. 

Snowball (poem)

Snowball is a very short, funny poem by Shel Silverstein about a snowball that does what snowballs do when they’re brought indoors.  It’s not strictly a holiday poem and would be a fun read for after the holidays as well.

Christmas Truce (informational text)

Different versions of the story of the World War I Christmas truce are available in various places.  The article on this site, Ducksters, is short and easily readable with the information divided up under subheadings, and there is a quiz at the end.

Piccola (story)

Piccola, available on the Project Gutenberg website in the book The Story Hour, by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith, is a lovely old story about a poor girl who usually spends her days alone while her mother goes out to work – and the surprising way in which she broadens her horizons and learns about Christmas presents for the first time.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (story)

I couldn’t write a list of favorite Christmas stories without including this Dr. Seuss classic picture book and popular Christmas movie.  The Grinch steals all the presents but can’t stop the Whos from singing out their Christmas joy.  Finally, like Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch undergoes a Christmas Day transformation.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (poem)

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clark Moore, has been published in numerous picture books and seems to be readily available online.  This version, from the American Literature site, includes nice old-fashioned illustrations.

The Polar Express (story)

This picture book, by Chris Van Allsburg, is another story that I just couldn’t leave off my list, even though everyone has probably already read it!  It’s about the Christmas bell that can only be heard by those “who truly believe.” There’s a movie, too.

Must be Santa (poem/song)

Must Be Santa, a Christmas song, originally written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks, includes poetry elements like rhyme and repetition and a call-and-response format.  Bob Dylan’s version, on a YouTube video, is fun to listen to and seems to include the names of a few US presidents mixed in with the reindeer!

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (story)

This is a lovely picture book – both the story by Gloria Houston, and the illustrations, by Barbara Cooney. The story takes place in the Appalachian Mountains and features a brave little girl and a dad who’s a soldier and returns just in time for Christmas.

The Elves and the Shoemaker (story)

This traditional story by the Brothers Grimm is also available on the American Literature site. The elves secretly help the shoemaker; the shoemaker returns the kindness. Everyone lives happily ever after.

A Christmas Carol (story/play)

In Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story, Ebenezer Scrooge mends his miserly ways after receiving Christmas Eve visits from three ghosts. You can read the story here, but there are also versions written as a play, and in simpler, more modern language, that kids seem to have fun with year after year during the Christmas season.

The Christmas Song (poem/song)

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .”  The Christmas Song, written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells and made famous by Nat King Cole, is a good example of a poem with (mostly) four line stanzas and rhyme schemes ABAB and AABB. 

Christmas at Red Butte (story)

Christmas at Red Butte, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, is another short story in the public domain that, like others in this list, can be found at Project Gutenberg. It tells the story of a teenage girl who goes all out to make Christmas special for her little cousins and in the process receives a magical Christmas gift herself.

Christmas Bells (poem)

There’s a Civil War connection to Christmas Bells, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and you can find lessons online that expand on that connection and incorporate both English and history. This poem, too, is commonly encountered as a Christmas carol.

The Gift of the Magi (story)

The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, is widely available online, but I especially like the picture book version illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger.  This is a story set at the turn of the twentieth century and about a young couple who each sacrifice their most prized possession to buy a special Christmas gift for the other.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (story)

A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by the poet Dylan Thomas, is told as a nostalgic remembrance of a wonderful Christmas in the past when the speaker was a young boy. At various times, readings of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” were recorded for radio and TV.  It’s not an easy read for kids with its complicated and old-fashioned language, but it would be a great holiday story for a read-aloud.

I hope you will enjoy browsing some of these stories, and will find a Christmas reading or two that both you and your kids will enjoy here! Happy holidays!

Related Resources

Christmas story studies
questions and activities for lessons on traditional Christmas stories
Winter holiday task cards
task cards for winter holiday themed lessons
Fifteen Favorite Holiday Reads

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