Who loves winter holiday books? We do! This diverse list of Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas books for kids will give you plenty of options for your classroom: from elementary school through high school!
1. The Joyful Book by Todd Parr (PreK-1)
We turn to Todd Parr constantly for cheerful and inclusive read aloud and to inspire student art and writing. Perfect to introduce discussions about simple acts of seasonal joy; we will be squeezing this new title onto our shelves right next to another longtime favorite for this time of year, The Peace Book.
2. Little Red Sleigh by Erin Guendelsberger (PreK-1)
Your kiddos will be enrapt with this sweet story of a small sled who dreams of being Santa’s next sleigh. After reading, grab some props or toys and for kids to act out the story.
3. I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison (PreK-1)
This rhythmic, onomatopoeic book about a young black girl who counts the days until Christmas brims with joy. It culminates in a heartwarming holiday kindness message we could all use: “THE SPIRIT IS YOU!”
4. The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen (Gr. PreK–1)
A little girl finds a lost reindeer in the woods and goes on a magical Christmas adventure. The charcoal pictures with pops of red and silver foil accents could inspire some adorable student artwork.
5. Dusk by Uri Shulevitz (Gr. PreK–1)
In this companion book to the Caldecott Honor recipient Snow, the boy and his dog walk through the city as the sun goes down, noticing the lights for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa in the windows.
6. Hanukkah Hamster by Michelle Markel (PreK-2)
A hamster may seem an unlikely mascot for Hanukkah, but in this cute story, it works! When a pet hamster is left in Edgar’s taxi cab just before Hanukkah, it becomes the companion he didn’t know he needed with his family far away in Israel. In particular, this is a good choice for 2020 to acknowledge those who must spend holidays away from loved ones this year.
7. The Great Santa Stakeout by Betsy Bird (PreK-2)
Some kids go to great lengths for proof of the Big Guy’s magical existence. Freddy Melcher, Santa aficionado, plots and plans to snag a photo of Santa on Christmas Eve. Kids will love his hilariously comprehensive efforts—and the lesson he learns. Plus, Dan Santat’s illustrations never disappoint.
8. The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol by Arthur A. Levine (PreK-3)
Meet Nate Gadol, spreader of Hanukkah magic and hope. This holiday kindness-themed read aloud touches on both Hanukkah and Christmas for your students. The author’s note about his childhood yearning for equitable holiday “myths” for Jewish children will be discussion-worthy for older students.
9. Santa, Please Bring Me a Gnome (Gr. PreK–2)
Tess has an unusual request for Santa: a real gnome. The sweet ending shows that sometimes wishes can come true in unexpected ways.
10. Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf by Greg Wolfe (Gr. PreK–2)
Kids will enjoy this cheerful story that upholds the magic of Santa Claus while also acknowledging the kids who wonder why Jewish children don’t receive gifts dropped down the chimney.
11. Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington (Gr. PreK–2)
This Brer Rabbit-inspired tale stars a young rabbit that thinks he’s too small to help his sick grandmother celebrate Kwanzaa. The community comes together to help, demonstrating the spirit of the holiday.
12. Jingle Bells by Susan Jeffers (Gr. PreK–2)
Susan Jeffers brings her artistic talent to the classic song lyrics. Students will need to infer from the pictures the secondary storyline about siblings on their way to deliver a special gift: hockey skates for their sporty grandma.
13. Gingerbread Christmas by Jan Brett (Gr. PreK–2)
It’s not the holidays without at least one of Jan Brett’s many seasonal titles. The latest installment of the adventures of the Gingerbread Baby and Matti takes the pair to a Christmas music festival. Grab the clear packing tape: students will want to unfold the signature pop-out page at the end again and again.
14. Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster (Gr. PreK–2)
Smart little Ruthie fries up batch after batch of latkes when the wolf shows up at Grandma’s house. Soon he’s too stuffed to eat anything—or anyone—else.
15. A Christmas for Bear by Bonnie Becker (Gr. K–2)
The endearing animal pair is back and as funny as ever. Just try to read Bear’s latest outburst without cracking up: “PICKLES AND POEMS! THAT IS THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT!”
16. Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg (Gr. K–2)
A boy makes Indian dosas instead of latkes for Hanukkah with his family, a nice reminder that holiday celebrations can be whatever families make them.
17. Ninja Claus! by Arree Chung (Gr. K–2)
The star of the popular book Ninja! is back again, and he’s seriously upped his game this year when it comes to his Santa-spotting plan. His hilarious letter to the Big Guy and Santa’s crafty response are reasons enough to pick up this title.
18. Kevin’s Kwanzaa by Lisa Bullard (Gr. K–2)
From candles to dancing and more, find out how Kevin’s family and others celebrate the seven days of Kwanzaa.
19. Way Too Many Latkes: A Hanukkah in Chelm by Linda Glaser (K–3)
Humorous Chelm stories are a Jewish tradition. In this one, the village latke-maker forgets her recipe. Her improvisation results in—as you might guess—way more latkes than usual.
20. Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever by Matt Tavares
The power of Santa’s sleigh is endlessly intriguing to kids. This title pairs stunning illustrations with a touching backstory imagining how the iconic reindeer team came to be.
21. Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto (Gr. K–3)
All kids can relate to this classic story about a young girl who frantically tries to correct an impulsive mistake, whether they celebrate Christmas or not.
22. Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares (Gr. K–3)
Destined for holiday-classic status, this is the story of cardinal mates separated when their evergreen home is loaded onto a truck bound for Rockefeller Center. In addition to the satisfying story and top-notch illustrations, this book could inspire your students to learn more about cardinals.
23. A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman (Gr. K–3)
What different treats does Santa enjoy on his Christmas Eve world tour? This multicultural delight will leave everyone’s mouths watering. (After school, take the book home and try out the recipes in the back with your own family.)
24. Hanukkah Cookies with Sprinkles by David A. Adler (Gr. K–3)
This is a story about the Jewish tradition of tzedakah, or acts of charity. It’s a great one to discuss ways to help those in need during the holiday season.
25. Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray (Gr. K–3)
This is a touching book about a young boy who helps his elderly neighbor run a Christmas tree farm. The story is less about Christmas and more about an intergenerational friendship—along with some interesting information about growing pine trees.
26. Night Tree by Eve Bunting (Gr. K–3)
No holiday book list is complete without this title. A family decorates a tree with food for animals in the wintry woods.
27. The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow (Gr. K–3)
The author’s note explains that this is an alternate retelling of the story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” on which The Nutcracker ballet is also based. Gorgeous paintings show how a Christmas Eve dream helps shy Marie find her voice in her lively Harlem family.
28. Hanukkah Moon by Deborah Da Costa (Gr. K–3)
This story shares the traditions of the Latin-Jewish community. Isobel celebrates Hanukkah with her Aunt Luisa, who recently emigrated from Mexico.
29. Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa by Carolyn B. Otto (Gr. K–5)
This comprehensive but succinct nonfiction text explains everything Kwanzaa, from the holiday’s origins, meaning, and practices to a recipe and craft instructions.
30. Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly MacKay (Gr. 2–5)
Study the range of human emotion that illustrations can convey with this wordless book about a grandmother who takes her sullen granddaughter to “The Nutcracker.” Scenes alternate between what’s happening on stage and the faces of audience members, creating a unique perspective.
31. A Year Full of Stories: 52 classic stories from all around the world by Angela McAllister (Gr. 2–5)
Enjoy the Christmas and Kwanzaa stories from France, Mexico, and Africa in this gorgeous book. Then start back at the beginning to read the rest when you return from winter break.
32. Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon (Gr. 2–5)
Jewish refugee Oskar arrives in New York City on Christmas Eve and the seventh night of Hanukkah. His father instructs him to “look for blessings,” and so he does, traversing the city to collect experiences that are each based on a real event from 1938.
33. The Road to Santiago by Dan Figueredo (Gr. 2–5)
It’s Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve, during Castro’s revolution in Cuba. Alfredito’s family looks for a way to travel to see relatives for Christmas when train service is unavailable. This diverse holiday title sensitively portrays a complex time in history.
34. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (Gr. 3–5)
The five Vanderbeeker children band together to save their family home when their landlord decides not to renew their Harlem lease shortly before Christmas. The biracial Vanderbeekers are a welcome addition to a primarily non-diverse middle grade and YA holiday book market.
35. Top Elf by Caleb Huett (Gr. 3–5)
This quick, funny read will appeal to students who are excited about the holiday season. North Pole residents complete holiday challenges as they compete in the Next Santa competition.
36. The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher (3-6)
This Victorian-era mystery is set at Christmas in a cold, creepy manor in the Welsh countryside. It’s a quick, but lushly descriptive, read—perfect for handing to a middle grader reader in need of a new title to curl up with.
37. The Lotterys More or Less by Emma Donoghue (3-6)
This follow-up to The Lotterys Plus One chronicles the winter holiday ups and downs of the Lottery Family, a raucously varied crew including four multicultural gay parents, seven siblings (some adopted), a grandfather, five pets—plus assorted friends and neighbors. Any kid who just wants family holiday traditions to unfold as expected will identify with the book’s narrator, 9-year-old Sumac Lottery.
38. The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig (Gr. 4–6)
This unique believe-in-the magic-of-Christmas story takes place in 1840s London, where young Amelia struggles to keep the faith when faced with difficult obstacles.
39. Tru & Nelle: A Christmas Tale by G. Neri (Gr. 4–7)
This is the author’s second historical fiction book based on events from the lives of young friends Truman Capote and Harper Lee. The two attempt to make sense of a Christmas crime during tumultuous times.
40. Dreidels on the Brain by Joel Ben Izzy (Gr. 5–9)
A relatable and awkward but highly likable adolescent, Joel is the only Jewish student at his school. As Hanukkah approaches, he’s desperate for a miracle to help him make sense of his faith.
41. The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley (Gr. 7–9)
In this edgy retelling of A Christmas Carol, Sam wrestles with whether to kill Scrooge. Frightening run-ins with spirits of the past, present, and future both inform and complicate his decision-making.
42. Recommended for You by Laura Silverman (8-12)
Perfect for the weeks leading up to winter break, this holiday rom-com set in a bookstore gets rave reviews from bookish teens. It helps fill a needed niche in YA holiday novels, too; the main character (of an appealingly diverse cast) is Jewish and Hanukkah traditions take center stage.
43. What Light by Jay Asher (Gr. 7–12)
This title gets attention for being by the author of Thirteen Reasons Why, but it is an enjoyable story in its own right. Sierra has to move to California every winter for her family to sell Christmas trees, a tough situation for any teen.
44. My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins (Gr. 7–12)
This collection of short stories includes Christmas, Hanukkah, winter solstice, and New Year’s-themed teen romance selections by well-known YA authors. Share it with your students, then go home, curl up with a blanket and holiday treats, and read it yourself.
45. Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson (Gr. 9–12)
Three popular authors offer three connected stories that occur during a Christmas Eve snowstorm. There’s now a movie version of this title to add December Netflix queues, too!
What are your favorite Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas books for kids? Let us know in the comments! And for more book list ideas, sign up for our newsletters.