Ready, Set, Read! Winter Classics For Family Reading Time

Holidays are great for family bonding. But after your twentieth game of Mario Kart, you may be wishing for quiet time. When that happens, why not unplug the gadgets and connect with your family through reading?

Here are eight classic children’s books that celebrate the wonders of the season, plus easy, fun and educational activities your family can do before and after you read.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats (ages 0-3):  In this Caldecott Medal winner, a young city boy spends a delightful day in the snow.

Activity: In the story Peter tucks a snowball into his pocket. While he’s getting ready for bed, it melts. Discuss what happened. What other things melt? Why do some things melt and others don’t? If there’s snow outside, help your kids use a clock to see which melts faster – a snowball or an ice-cube?

Frederick by Leo Lionni (ages 2-8):  In this Caldecott Honor winner, winter’s coming and Frederick the field mouse isn’t helping his family prepare. But his imagination comes in handy during the long, bleak winter.

Activity: Instead of gathering food, Frederick stores up memories. Talk about your own family. If our family was going to hibernate, what would we pack? Invite your children to describe a warm weather scene, just as Frederick does, while the rest of the family imagines it. What do you look forward to doing when spring comes?

Snow by Uri Shulevitz (ages 3-6): The residents aren’t expecting snow but one small boy has faith. Flake by flake, the town is blanketed with snow and everyone enjoys the winter wonderland.

Activity: Look closely at the illustrations. Where do you think the boy lives? How is this town different from ours? What made the Mother Goose characters come alive? What storybook characters would you like to meet in real life? 

Winter Trees by Carole Gerber (ages 4-7):  In this book children are introduced to the art of observing nature. A boy and his dog use their senses of touch and sight to identify seven snow-covered trees.

Activity: Look out your window or stroll around your community. Are the trees the same? Different? What trees do we have in our neighborhood? When you get home, use your index finger to take turns tracing tree silhouettes on each other’s backs. Can you guess which tree I’m drawing?

The Mitten by Jan Brett (ages 4-8): In this gorgeously illustrated retelling of a Ukrainian folktale, a little boy loses his mitten. An assortment of woodland animals try the mitten on for size … until the unexpected happens.

Activity: Draw your children’s attention to the illustrations in the margins. Can they predict which animal will show up next? After you’ve finished, talk about what happened. Could this happen to your mittens or gloves? Which animal got in first? Which one was last? Test your kids’ memories: Can they remember all the animals in order?

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (ages 4-8): The exquisite woodcuts in this 1999 Caldecott Medal winner tell the story of Wilson Bentley and his quest to capture the wonder of snowflakes on film. Along the way he discovered two important truths: every snowflake is unique, and each one is beautiful.

Activity: Grab paper and scissors and help your kids make paper snowflakes. Or make your own flake catcher to use the next time it snows. Store sheets of black construction paper in the freezer. When it’s snowing, send your child outside to catch some flakes on the paper. Next, use a magnifying glass to study the snowflakes. What shapes do you see? Which one is your favorite? Why?

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen (ages 5-7): On a moonlit night, a young farm girl and her father take a nocturnal walk in search of a great horned owl. An assortment of forest animals watches them from the shadows. The book won the Caldecott Award for its exquisite watercolor paintings.

Activity: Take turns pretending to be an animal in the story. What did the owl sound like? What sounds do the other animals in the story make? Listen to the story at

A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke (ages 2-10): It’s getting cold out, so silly Minerva goes in search of something to keep her head warm.

Activity: Have an indoor scavenger hunt! If you lost your hat, what could you use instead?

Just 10 to 15 minutes a day of family reading can help spark a love of reading in children, according to Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s largest children’s literacy organization. So, curl up with your kids and some books and start racking up those minutes!

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Making the Most of Reading Time

Try these discussion ideas when reading with your children: 

Set the stage: Ask questions about the front and back covers, the title page and the illustrations. What do you think this book is about? What kind of story do you think this is, i.e., funny … exciting? Can you guess what’s going to happen? Who wrote the book? What does an illustrator do? How many pages are there? How many chapters?

Recap and reflect: What was your favorite part of the story? Which pictures did you like the most? Were you surprised about what happened? What do you think might happen next? Can you tell the story in your own words?

Check out these informative online resources for children’s literacy:

RIF (Reading is Fundamental): Offers a wealth of support and information about reading and children, including sections for activities, booklists, articles & multicultural literacy resources.

PBS Parents: Learn how children become readers and writers and how to help them develop. Features articles on a variety of youth literacy topics, “quick tips,” and sections organized by age.


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Most libraries offer special holiday storytimes that may include special guest readers, like “Mrs Claus.” “Children will enjoy reading more when done together, along with activities that relate to a great story. At storytime each week it’s fun to have a craft that reminds children of the books we just read, such as making snowmen with cotton balls or making simple gifts to give.” -Susie Serrano, Senior Library Assistant, Paradise Branch Library. Check North State Parents Going Places events calendar for upcoming storytimes and special library events information![/sws_green_box]

Justine Ickes
About Justine Ickes

Justine Ickes writes about culture, family, travel and people making a difference. She loves curling up with a good book, her two sons and hot cocoa with plenty of marshmallows.

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