One of our Christmas traditions is to have a book advent calendar. Each evening in December, in the run-up to Christmas, the children get to unwrap that day’s Christmassy book, which we then read together. It’s a lovely way of making sure we take time to relax and snuggle up together with a story each day.
Creating your own book advent calendar
Setting up a book advent calendar from scratch doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’ve already got any winter/festive themed books you can use them. Nearly all of the books in our book advent calendar are ones that have been read in previous years. I might add one or two new ones, particularly as the children get older and outgrow some of the earlier ones. Charity shops and second-hand bookstores are good places to pick up second-hand Christmas books.
I used to wrap our books in festive wrapping paper each year before numbering them. These days, I use large paper bags which I then try and reuse for the next year. Fabric bags would also work well too and could be reused each year.
You don’t have to have 24 books wrapped and ready to go at the start of Advent though! Just having a different story, or a different chapter of a story each night is enough. You could get books from the library and change them throughout Advent. Another option would be to have a special book to read together in the run-up to Christmas. Last year, a friend gave us a copy of ‘How Winston Delivered Christmas’ by Alex T. Smith. This is a lovely book with 24 chapters, one for each day, along with a suggested activity for each day. We didn’t find time for all the activities but the book was a lovely one to read in addition to our usual Advent books. It would be perfect as a standalone Advent book to read together.
Ideas for books to use
Here are a selection of some of the books that have been used in our book advent calendar over the years.
- The Jolly Christmas Postman – Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
- Dear Santa – Rod Campbell
- The Fox’s Tale – Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen
- I Love You, Father Christmas – Giles Andreae and Emma Dodd
- Who’s Hiding – Vicki Howie
- The Fourth King – Ted Sieger
- Mrs Pepperpot’s Christmas – Alf Prøysen
- Rudey’s Windy Christmas – Helen Baugh
- Mr Christmas – Roger Hargreaves
- Little Miss Christmas – Roger Hargreaves
- Mr Snow – Roger Hargreaves
- Spot’s First Christmas – Eric Hill
- That’s Not My Reindeer – Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
- That’s Not My Snowman – Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
- The Nativity – Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
- Little Owl and the Christmas Star – Mary Murphy
- One Snowy Night – Christina M. Butler and Tina MacNaughton
- Merry Christmas, Splat – Rob Scotton
- Baby Jesus is Born – Juliet David
- The Very Special Christmas – Christine Leeson and Gaby Hansen
- A New Suit for Santa – David Pace and Tim Wood
- The Christmas Bear – Ian Whybrow and Axel Scheffler
- Jesus’ Christmas Party – Nicholas Allan
- How Many Sleeps till Christmas? – Mark Sperring
- Dear Father Christmas – Alan Durant
- The Night Before Christmas – Clement C Moore
Some of these are firm favourites and appear in the box of books every year. There are a couple of books that we always read on the same day. ‘How Many Sleeps Before Christmas?’ is always read on 21st December (to fit in with the number of sleeps at the start of the story) and we always read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ on 24th December. Some of the books also have very special memories for us. ‘Jesus’ Christmas Party’ is a firm favourite because it was one Jessica absolutely adored. When the innkeeper in the story gets cross and shouts “Round the back!” we all remember the way Jessica would shout that line out and it’s always a lovely moment for sharing those memories.
We love our tradition of snuggling together to read a story from our book advent calendar throughout December. It’s also lovely to have the children join in with reading the stories. Sophie is a confident reader now and will read some of the books (although she still enjoys being read to as well!) Now that Thomas is able to read early reader books, I am sure he will enjoy trying to read along too.