Winter holidays are right around the corner, and with them comes the opportunity to share books with our kids about why we celebrate. Books also help mamas get into the holiday spirit and quietly reconnect with our kids. After all, what’s better than snuggling up under a blanket when the snow is falling?

The team of teachers and librarians at Best Kids’ Books selected stories about different special days celebrated by American families including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Lunar New Year (sometimes called Chinese New Year) and Nochebuena. Use these as an opportunity to teach your children about the traditions that other families celebrate, as well as your own.

Enjoy a hand-picked selection of titles to read to kids that celebrate the winter holidays:

Newborn-2 Years

hanukkah lights book

Hanukkah Lights

This board book, with its lovely, detailed illustrations, is a nice introduction to the traditions of Hanukkah. Lots of smiles here and a sense of fun.

the little drummer boy book

The Little Drummer Boy

Ezra Jack Keats’ paper collage artwork accompanies the lyrics of the popular Christmas song The Little Drummer Boy, with its beautiful cadence and all the fun-to-sing rum-pum-pum-pums. It tells the story of Mary, baby Jesus and a boy who has no gift to offer other than what he can create on his drum, a tune which reverberates through time and creates calm. Little ones as well as older children will enjoy the rhythm of these lyrics being spoken or sung, and may even join in or memorize them.

ten mice for tet book

Ten Mice for Tet!

This counting book helps toddlers and preschoolers master their numbers, but it includes gorgeous illustrations and an entrance point to learn about Tet, the Vietnamese New Year’s celebration. The illustrations were embroidered onto cloth and then photographed, making them interesting to study, but the vibrant color choices steal the show.

merry christmas little pookie book

Merry Christmas, Little Pookie

Little Pookie, the sweet little pig star of many of Sandra Boynton’s popular toddler board books, is at it again with Christmas antics this time. A pig couldn’t look much cuter in a snowsuit! Toddlers will appreciate this one.

For Kids Ages 6-8

seven spools of thread book

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story

This is a striking book in every way. The bold illustrations—created with intricate woodcuts—complement the story of seven African brothers who leave behind arguing to work together for the greater good. The preface explains the origins and principles of Kwanzaa. A real standout.

simon and the bear

Simon and the Bear

This moving story of a young boy who journeys from his village to New York, only to be stranded on an iceberg after his ship sinks, is action-packed and dramatic. The boy relinquishes his seat in a lifeboat to a fellow passenger, befriends a polar bear and is rescued. Description of Hanukkah traditions are woven into the story, making it educational as well.

the night before christmas book

The Night Before Christmas

Created with gorgeous collage by the talented Rachel Isadora, this rendition of Clement Moore’s famous 1822 poem allows children with brown skin to see characters that look like them. This poem and presentation are a perfect combination of the old and new—a fantastic opportunity to make 200-year-old language accessible to our little screen sophisticates. Make a tradition of reading this book every Christmas Eve for extra fun.

The gift of nothing book

The Gift of Nothing

Written by a famous cartoonist, this book is the story of a cat on a hunt to get his dog-bestie an amazing gift. TYhe lesson learned: love and companionship are the best gifts of all. Pick this as a conversation starter on why we give gifts, on our cultural tendency toward consumerism, or just as a sweet nudge to pull your little loved ones a little closer.

For Kids Ages 9-10

the nutcracker in harlem

The Nutcracker in Harlem

This book, gorgeously illustrated by James Ransome, introduces young ones to the fantastical plot of the popular holiday season ballet, The Nutcracker, complete with a mouse army battling toy soldiers. With characters named after Adelaide Hall and Cab Calloway, performers popular during the Harlem Renaissance, it also offers an opportunity to introduce children to the music of the 1920’s, the setting for the story.

the trees of the dancing goats book

The Trees of the Dancing Goats

This book tells the true story of the author’s mother as a little girl on her grandparents’ farm in Michigan—and one particular holiday when scarlet fever was going farm to farm bringing serious sickness with it. Her grandparents, having come to Michigan from Ukraine and Soviet Georgia, celebrate Hanukkah. Their neighbors celebrate Christmas, but can’t decorate or cook for the holidays due to illness. Her family remedies this, bringing decorated trees, gifts and food to their neighbors homes.

one candle

One Candle

This book is a heartbreaking look into the lives of two older women who spent time during their childhoods in a Nazi work camp for Jews in Germany during World War II. The story centers on the beloved candle they were able to burn in their barracks during Hanukkah all those many years ago, and the hope and resilience it engendered. A touching, beautiful and unfortunately necessary book that should definitely be considered when the time is right.

Note: this book should only be shared with children developmentally ready for the content and only when the adult reader has the time and background knowledge to answer questions and talk through the delicate and complex subject matter.