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Christmas books for kids: An expert's list

December 02, 2010 12:00AM

Dr. Susan Knell suggests that families can lower stress and enhance the holiday atmosphere in their homes by adding a new holiday tradition to their busy routine - reading. Knell, a member of the faculty in Pittsburg State University's College of Education and a reading expert, said that the weeks leading up to Christmas can be a magical time for children who are read to and who have good books to read.

"There are many, many wonderful holiday books for children of all ages," Knell said. "As a reading teacher, I know that parents also benefit when they take time to share the gift of reading with their children."

Knell, former president of the Kansas Reading Association, teaches courses in children's literature, young adult children's literature, developmental reading instruction and approaches to teaching writing at PSU. She is also a past president of the Kansas Reading Association in Higher Education.

Knell is fond of compiling and sharing with her students lists of the books she considers best.  Her list of holiday favorites has grown to 126 titles. Knell's top five for kids of all ages, very young readers and adolescents are:

Picture books for all ages: "The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza," (Shannon); "The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree," (Houston & Cooney); "Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story," (Rylant & Soentpiet); "The Polar Express," (Van Allsburg); and "Angela and the Baby Jesus," (McCourt).

Chapter books to be read aloud or independently: "A Christmas Sonata," (Paulsen); "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," (Robinson); "A Season of Gifts," (Richard Peck); "The True Gift: A Christmas Story," Patricia MacLachlan, and "Miracle on 34th Street," (Davies & dePaola).

Books for adolescents: "Kringle," (Abot); "The Princess Present," (Cabot); "Ex-mas: A Love/Hate Story," (Kate Brian); "What Child is This?" (Cooney); "A Christmas Memory," (Capote); and "Christmas Genie," (Dan Gutman).

Her recommendation for Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day and Hanukkah: "Celebrating Chanukah: Eight Nights," (Martinez & Bynum); "Hanukkah at Valley Forge," (Krensky & Harlin); "Hanukkah Festival of Lights: Celebrate with Songs, Decorations, Food, Games, Prayers, & Traditions," (Friedman & Rhinelander); "A Jewish Holiday ABC," (Drucker & Pocock); "The Menorah Story," (Podwal); "Our Eight Nights of Hanukkah," (Rosen & DiSalvo-Ryan); "Seven Days of Kwanzaa," (Grier & Ward); and "Three Kings Day: A Celebration at Christmastime," (Hoyt-Goldsmith & Migdale).

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