As wintry cold increases and sunshine decreases, families spend more time inside seeking ways to connect and make memories – especially during the holidays. In that regard, Ready Readers recommends three books to explore how holidays are celebrated worldwide and how holiday traditions began.
This month’s first recommendation, Lights of Winter: Celebrations Around the World, comes from writer Heather Conrad and illustrator deForest Walker. In olden times, Conrad explains, people created stories to account for the declining sunlight hours at this time of year.
Using short, simple descriptions, she highlights 10 December celebrations, past and present. From ancient Mesopotamia’s winter festival of Zagmuk, through Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas and more, to the 20th-century beginnings of Kwanzaa, readers learn what unites people and their winter celebrations: light.
Like Lights of Winter, this month’s second recommendation, What Do You Celebrate? Holidays and Festivals Around the World, is nonfiction aimed at children 5 and older. What Do You Celebrate? by writer Whitney Stewart and illustrator Christiane Engel covers a year’s traditions and delves into the food, games, flags, countries and cultures of celebrators. Recipes and craft activities accompany the stories of the various festivals and invite readers to experience the fun and traditions for themselves.
Engel’s colorful, exuberant and childlike style conveys the joy of celebration. From this book, children and parents alike should gain insight, respect and understanding of the festivities and traditions enjoyed by friends from other backgrounds. What Do You Celebrate? sets the stage for fun hours of family learning, cooking and conversing over the holiday break.
This month’s final recommendation, a delightful picture book titled Sun Bread from writer/illustrator Elisa Kleven, may be enjoyed by all ages. An award-winning illustrator, Kleven combines her richly layered mixed-media pictures with evocative, lyrical verse that sets the tone from the first stanza: “The wind it whooshed, the snow it whirled. The rain streamed down; it sloshed and swirled, and washed the colors from the world.” Readers will see families (portrayed by animals) grumpily interacting inside their homes as the seasonal chill and gloom set in.
In Sun Bread, a baker missed the sun so much that she decided to bake a sun-shaped bread: “She kneaded bread dough, rich and gold; glossy springy, smooth to hold. She shaped a bread so round and grand it seemed the sun shone in her hands!” As the dough rises and bakes, the comforting aroma of warm, fresh bread attracts her neighbors, who gather to share the goodness. The bookends with a recipe for Sun Bread – and an invitation for families to follow the baker’s lead and create their own warmth and fun this winter.
You can join Ready Readers in sharing the joy of books, reading and learning about our world with our community’s most vulnerable preschoolers. Visit our website (readyreaders.org) to learn how you can make a difference. Kids Who Read Succeed!
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