Begin at the beginning. Tell a story. Make some light.” – Kate DiCamillo
The holiday season is upon us. Advent is a perfect time to change gears with your reading program, honing in on traditions that make lasting memories and bond your family together even more.
The key is to make reading fun during this time of year when everything else can seem stressful and in a flurry. Advent, which means coming, is a time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s second coming, to celebrate His first coming, and to enrich our Christmas season. Even for the most devout Christian, in this modern world it can be difficult to stay focused on Christ’s coming and not get swept away by the “to-do” list, Christmas parties, shopping, and materialism.
Here are five Advent activities that create lasting memories and make reading fun:
When my boys were young, they usually had two Advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas. One was filled with chocolate and the other was filled with a Lego piece. Each morning when they work up they’d excitedly run to their calendars, opening a door to retrieve their chocolate and Lego piece. I loved how this focused on the anticipation of Christ’s coming.
Then, I learned of the best Advent calendar idea ever: Create an advent book tree! Here’s how it works:
- Gather 25 books that you want to read as a family. They can be used or new.
- Gift wrap them. (You can write numbers on the wrapper 1-25 if you like, or leave them blank.)
- Stack them up in the shape of a tree.
- Each day, open one book and read it until the 25th book is opened on Christmas Day.
- Here is a link to a picture of how it can look.
I just love the focus on books and reading while celebrating Advent. This activity truly motivates our children to read.
2. Family Celebrations by Ann Hibbard
This is a wonderful book that not only focuses on Christ-centered holidays but explains that the modern Santa Claus finds his origin in a young pastor named Nicholas. This book became our family read-aloud, along with the Bible, during holidays.
During this season our family focuses on Christ by reading the Christmas story from the book of Luke. In addition, we set aside a few moments each day to work through the Family Celebrations book, which has daily Scripture reading and family Advent projects and activities. (One project involves creating an advent wreath with candles. Another involves creating Velcro “ornaments” that coordinate with each day’s Scripture lessons to hang on a felt Christmas-tree banner.) This book became one of our family Advent traditions—so much so, that my boys had all the activities and Scripture verses memorized! I love the fact that by doing it each year, they hid God’s word in their hearts. I also love the fact that we took time from our regularly scheduled reading and school work to focus on Advent—Christ’s coming.
3. A Special Literature Box
One family that I know has the following tradition: When the kids were little, they had a box of books/stories/games/magazines that they opened sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend. There was nothing new in the box, although the items were wrapped like new. The kids looked forward to this special box, which included many of their favorite games, Christmas stories, self-written stories, etc. What made this box special was that it only came out from Thanksgiving until Christmas. After Christmas, the box got put away until the following year. Since they only saw it once a year, they waited with anticipation and were motivated to read and play the games contained in the special literature box.
4. Focus on Fun Literature for Christmas
The following books were some of our family favorites, which we traditionally read together: A Christmas Carol (adapted from the Charles Dickens novella), The Nutcracker (based on the famous ballet), and The Pine Tree Parable (by Liz Curtis Higgs). There are many wonderful children’s books for Christmas, both secular and sacred. If you don’t own any, maybe consider selecting one special book each year to add to a family collection to read during Advent.
5. A Random Act of Kindness Daily Advent Activity
This printable calendar gives a different idea for an activity you can do each day of Advent. Read the idea, then decide together how you will implement it. These activities will create special memories for both your children and for those who are blessed by their “random acts of kindness.”
I hope that you can take a step back from your usual, rigorous reading instruction and bask in the Advent season with special reading. By building traditions like these, your children will connect reading with warm, happy memories.
Wife. Mom. Teacher. Writer. Education & literacy consultant. Lover of God, cappuccino, and chocolate. Leader. Ordinary with an extraordinary desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others, particularly children. Pamela is the founder of Literate For Life, a foundation offering programs to parents and teachers that educate, encourage, and empower people, particularly children, to be literate for life. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.