Adopt Holiday Traditions

Picture Books for Your Thanksgiving Table

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Deepen your holiday experience through story.

Thanksgiving can seem like a very self-conflicted holiday.

On one hand, this national day of feast has grown into a wonderful ritual of coming together to celebrate our blessings. On the other hand, it is still rooted in deeply problematic representations of native peoples and our national history.

Here’s another contradiction. As its title implies, Thanksgiving is a spirited, ready-made opportunity to celebrate the abundance in our lives. Unfortunately, this holiday also marks the unofficial kick-off to holiday shopping, wish lists, and a nationwide plague of “the gimmes.”

Don't let tired stereotypes and holiday greed overshadow your family’s Thanksgiving. Explore this growing list of picture books with your children, and take time to deepen your holiday experience.


Conversation Starters

  • Why is it so easy to forget the many things we are grateful for when we discover something new that we desperately want?

  • How can we remind ourselves to be satisfied with the good things already in our lives?

  • What if we woke up tomorrow and only had the things we expressed gratitude for today?

  • How can we tell the difference between what we need and what we want?

  • Is it wrong to want something more when you have so much?

  • Is it hard to feel grateful when you’ve had a difficult day? What can we do to remind ourselves of gratitude even when we’re not feeling very happy or grateful?

Featured Title

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Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp
This is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations. Its celebration of so many things we universally cherish – love, nature, gratitude – make this a wonderful book to revisit throughout the year or read around the Thanksgiving table.


Additional DGT Favorites

The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac
This collection features works by Native American tribes including Cherokee, Kwakiutl, Pawnee, Navajo, and Papago. The assorted poems and songs offer wonderful food for thought on the topic of gratitude, family, and the rituals of celebration.

Grateful: A Song of Giving Things by Jon Bucchino
Including sheet music and a CD, this song-in-a-book invites readers to consider all they are thankful for in a peaceful, meditative way.

Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora
This poetic and joyful story introduces us to a young biracial boy as he celebrates the many reasons he feels thankful.

How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting
A family is forced to flee their Caribbean island and set sail for America in a small fishing boat. They arrive on Thanksgiving Day, having experienced fears and hardships very similar to those faced by those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving. This is a very moving story sure to open a conversation about compassion and courage.

The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood
In the soothing, inspirational style Douglas Wood is famous for, this book unlocks the secret of gratitude. Parents will look forward to spending time with this gentle book.

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac
Learn about the Pokanoket tribe, in Squanto’s Journey by Joseph Bruchac, an author of Native descent. This exceptional biography is perfect for thoughtful grade-schoolers. The overarching tone is both tender and realistic, as it introduces aspects of the history that are too often glossed over or misrepresented. This book will help ground your holiday celebration in a nuanced and respectful historical context.

The Table Where Rich People Sit by Bryd Baylor
A young girl learns from her family that being rich is not just about material wealth.

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon by Grace Lin
Expand your conversation from American history to a similar fall tradition: the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Grace Lin’s story is simple and wonderful to read aloud.  The Moon Festival is one of the most important holidays of the year, and though it usually falls in September, this book’s theme of thankfulness, togetherness, and harvest celebrations fits nicely with the other books on this list.

Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes
Explore gratitude through 16 beautiful poems sure to illuminate the power of saying thanks.

The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose
This classic picture book introduces children to some of the hundreds of groups that made their homes in America long before Columbus set sail. Learn more about the traditions and lives of a variety of native peoples across the continent.

Back to Read Together for more book lists...

Haven't found what you're looking for?
Visit our Complete Resource List.

Or check adopt your next big-hearted holiday tradition
with one of these projects.

Disclaimer:  Doing Good Together™ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The recommendations we offer are based solely on our mission to empower parents to raise children who care and contribute.

 

 

Picture Books to Celebrate Winter Holidays

An evolving list of picture books celebrating winter holidays

Cozy up with compassionate holiday tales.

The spirit of wonder, hope, and generosity in each story below helps us see clearly that people everywhere have so much in common, even amid our beautiful differences.


Conversation Starters

  • What did the holidays look like in your grandparents' homes when they were children?

  • What did the holidays look like in your parents' homes when they were children?

  • How did some of the favorite holiday traditions get started in your family?

  • What would your holiday be like if you didn’t receive any presents?

  • What would it feel like to receive holiday gifts from a stranger instead of family and friends?

  • What kind gestures have others done for you over the holidays?

  • What are some ways you can show others you care during the holidays? Or what are some ways you have shared comfort and cheer with others?

  • Snag our free printable count down to the New Year for holiday kindness ideas!

    Featured Title

The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear
This mesmerizing story beautifully captures the magical spirit of the holiday season. Its soothing, serene pace is a nice break from the frenzy of year-end traditions. And its inclusive, expansive message of hope and inspiration make this book perfect for everyone on your list.


A Hanukkah with Mazel Joel Edward Stein
Misha, a lonely artist, befriends a cat, Mazel. He works to make Hanukkah special for his new friend. Though they have very little, young readers will learn that holidays can be very special with the simplest gifts and a little creativity. Ages 3 to 8.

 

A World of Christmas Cookies: Follow Santa's Tasty Trip Around the World by M. E. Furman
Featuring delicious recipes from around the world, this creative story will add flavor and global appreciation to your holiday. Ages 4 to 8.

 

A Winter Candle by Jeron Ashford
Residents of one apartment building are each celebrating family traditions during the holidays. One by one, each family discovers they are missing an important part of their holiday - a candle. This lovely story follows the candle as it is passed from family to family, lighting a gatherings for the Sabbath, Saint Lucia Day, Kwanzaa, and others. Ages 5 to 11.

 

December by Eve Bunting
Simon and his mom don’t have much–the cardboard house they built for themselves, a tiny Christmas tree, and a picture of an angel on the wall. On Christmas Eve they take in a frail stranger who needs a place to keep warm, and the next morning Simon wakes early to find that the woman has vanished. Instead, he sees the angel from the picture, with her wings fanned out over their cardboard house. Could she be real?

 

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Rich Simon and Tanya Simon
Set in 1938, Oskar is a Jewish immigrant new to the U.S. Follow him as he walks through New York City on the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve. Along the way, he takes in New York landmarks and experiences small acts of kindness from many strangers, making him feel welcome in his new home. Ages 4 to 8.

 

The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell
What do you get for the friend who has everything? Nothing, of course! Patrick McDonnell’s The Gift of Nothing is the light-hearted tale of one dog’s quest to find just the right nothing to give his special friend. Ages 4 to 8.

 

The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau
A talented seamstress makes beautiful quilts for the poor and the homeless. When the king who has everything decides he must have one of her creations, she tells him he must give away everything; then she will give him a quilt. In the process of shedding his many possessions, the king finds true happiness. No summary can do justice to the mesmerizing, fairy-tale quality of this beautifully illustrated tale. Ages 4 to 8.

 

The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
This story featuring the joy of giving is told with the incomparable sensitivity and bewitching style of all Polacco's books. Young Trisha and her family are preparing for Hanukkah when they learn that their Christian neighbors are coping with a scarlet fever epidemic. Unable to celebrate while their neighbors are suffering, Trisha’s family reaches out to help. Ages 5 to 10.

 

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
This is one of the sweetest, most elegant books of the season. Great Joy is the tale of an organ grinder, his monkey, and the little girl who worries over whether he has a place to go in the storm. Ages 4 to 8.

 

Gus and Grandpa and the Christmas Cookies by Claudia Mills
When Gus goes to Grandpa’s house to bake Christmas cookies, they discover that they don’t have any sprinkles. On the way to the store, they pass a Santa collecting money for the poor. Gus contributes two quarters and is rewarded with a “God bless you.” Returning home, Gus and Grandpa are visited by three neighbors, each bringing two dozen cookies. What are they to do with so many cookies? Gus knows! Ages 5 to 8.

 

Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert
Celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah with a haiku for each night and a clever, beautifully design book that is lovely to read again and again. Ages 4 to 8.

 

Lights for Gita by Rachna Gilmore
Young Gita is excited to celebrate her favorite holiday for the first time after her family immigrated from India: Divali, a festival of lights. But when Gita's plans fall apart, Gita gets very homesick. With the help of family and friends, Gita discovers that she carries the light of Diwali inside her wherever she goes. Ages 5 to 8.

 

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis
This charming fable introduces readers to the seven principles of Kwazaa and life lessons everyone can appreciate.

 

The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer
Learn about the way various cultures throughout history have observed the Winter Solstice.

 

Walk this World at Christmastime by Big Picture Press & Debbie Powell
This beautifully illustrated lift-the-flap book takes children on a tour of Christmastime around the world, as well as other winter holidays that bring families together.

 

Haven't found what you're looking for?
Visit our Complete Resource List.

Or check out these ideas for sharing kindness this holiday season.

Disclaimer:  Doing Good Together™ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The recommendations we offer are based solely on our mission to empower parents to raise children who care and contribute.

Picture Boooks to Celebrate Halloween

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Add heart to this spooky holiday.

What child (or child at heart) doesn't love the imaginative aspects of Halloween, a celebration of candy and costumes?

Of course, this Holiday lends itself to some difficult conversations, when young children observe costumes, advertisements, and television previews that may be beyond their emotional readiness. Some are just downright yucky. These books will help your child navigate this tricky season.


Conversation Starters

  • What is courage?

  • Does everyone get scared?

  • What should you do when you are afraid?

  • Can you imagine a situation when you could be very brave, like the character in your story? Color a picture or tell a story about your brave moment.

  • Why is it fun to dress up as someone or something else?

  • How can we help others during this fun, creative holiday?

Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter
There is nothing wrong with being shy or fearful. But even the most timid among us have the capacity for great bravery. Full of hilarious illustrations, this book is perfect for any cat lover or any kid looking to unlock his inner courage.

Zen Ghosts by Jon Muth
Reconnect with Addy, Michael, and Karl from Zen Shorts as they celebrate Halloween with their good friend Stillwater. A ghostly tale and Muth’s signature poetic prose set a wonderful tone in this story.

Tuesday by David Weisener
If you haven’t had a chance to fall in love with David Weisener’s work, now is the time, and this is the book! Though it may not be a Halloween book explicitly, the unexpected nocturnal flight of frogs sets a perfectly eerie, charmingly fantastical tone for the holiday. 

Stellaluna by Janel Cannon
Nothing sets a Halloween mood quite like bats. But this little tale of a lost baby bat and her attempt to fit in with a kindly bird family is fun in any season. Stellaluna’s adventures teach kids all about bats, and, even more importantly, all about how good friends can appreciate their differences.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
A witch and her cat are off on a moonlit broom ride when her hat is blown off into the darkness.  As they attempt to recover the witchy hat, they wind up taking on passengers, dodging a dragon, and solving their space conundrum with style! Axel Scheffler’s illustrations make the whole thing incredibly fun!

Beneath the Ghost Moon by Jane Yolen
This powerful lesson in forgiveness and courage is also a delightfully fanciful story. The dreaded creepie-crawlies nearly ruin the Halloween ball for all the excited mice. This adventure may inspire your own little mice to stage a Halloween dance party!

Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Page by page the monster grows, until your little one is ready to show him who is boss. Then page by page, watch that monster disappear. This book is sure to vanish Halloween fears.

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPuchio
Full of silliness and heart, this book is sure to put a positive spin on your Halloween antics.

Looking for a chapter book? Older children might also enjoy this:

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
In one of his few books for children, Bradbury brings kids on a ghostly time travel adventure to search for their lost friend and the meaning of Halloween. In the end, the boys in the story are courageous enough to make an important sacrifice to save their friend and get home again.

Back to Read Together for more book lists...

Haven't found what you're looking for?
Visit our Complete Resource List.

Or check adopt your next big-hearted holiday tradition
with one of these projects.

Disclaimer:  Doing Good Together™ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The recommendations we offer are based solely on our mission to empower parents to raise children who care and contribute.