Carolyn writes about children's literature for library, preschool, or homeschool settings. She has a BA in English Literature.
22 December Preschool Storytime Books
December is usually a busy month with holiday preparations, school breaks, concerts, and plays. Fitting in a quality library story hour can be a scheduling challenge, but it's easy to put together a special presentation with these winter suggestions. I often based my children's story hour themes on well-known nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and popular Christmas songs.
This article includes 22 books, arranged into 3 themes. Click on the theme you want to see.
December or Winter Themes
Children's Books About Snow
One Snowy Day by Diana Murray and Diana Toledano
This is a counting book that also tells a charming rhyming story about two children, their friends, and their dog playing in the snow. They make snow angels, go sledding, build a snowman, and make snowballs for a puppy to catch. This satisfying read-aloud ends where it begins in a land shrouded with millions of snowflakes and children tucked safely in bed. One thing I really like about this book is that lots of children will see themselves in this story! The illustrations are darling.
The Snowy Nap by Jan Brett
Hedgie the hedgehog makes another appearance in this story about winter hibernation. Hedgie doesn't want to go to sleep for the winter after he hears about all the fun the animals will be having (roller skating, building snowmen, and doing other fun activities) without him! Will he stay awake all winter long?
Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
Lois Ehlert's creative collage art steals the show in this book about a snow family and their dog Spot. On every page, Ehlert builds snow people using layered collage papers and everyday objects that she skillfully photographs. Her quirky uses of everyday items like washers and ticket stubs paired with more unconventional things (like a colorful Peruvian scarf) make this book a fun read for a variety of age groups. Try reading this book through during the story hour, and then if you have time, have the children look for items in the book.
All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle is a simple rhyming book about children building a snowman. On each page, Schertle adds just one more thing you need to build a snowman. This a wonderful book for storytime because it builds anticipation, and you can encourage group participation by asking kids to guess what comes next.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a timeless classic published in the 1960s. This simple tale is the story of a young boy's day of playing in the snow. The simple text and illustrations show the author's understanding and ability to express what it is like to be a child and to discover the wonder and awe of playing in the snow: dragging a stick through the snow, making a snow angel, and yearning to join in a snowball fight with older children.
A Perfect Day for It by Jan Fearnley
This book by Jan Fearnley features a playful group of animal friends who make a perfect day of sledding down a snowy hillside. You will enjoy the playful story, the bright and appealing illustrations, and the sense of anticipation—the building storyline will capture your audience's full attention. The hardcover edition by Harcourt is the version I own.
Children's Books About Mittens
I enjoy sharing two versions of the same Ukrainian folktale; both are called The Mitten (see below).
The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt
The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt and illustrated by Yaraslova was published in 1989. It has simple line art illustrations and a blue and red color scheme that hearkens back to the 1960s. This book is the story of a boy who loses his mitten in the snow. The mitten becomes a shelter for woodland animals who squeeze into the mitten to get warm. This is a humorous folktale that can be read, used as inspiration for a live retelling, or acted out.
The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett
The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett is a playfully illustrated rendition of the same folktale. It uses Jan Brett's Scandinavian-inspired artwork with wonderful illustrative touches. Jan Brett is known for her busy illustration style that features lots of little stories within the story. If you liked The Mitten, you may also enjoy The Hat. This story is an enjoyable addition to the Jan Brett repertoire of tales about winter clothing.
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits is about the title character's immigrant family and how they adjust to the Christmas traditions of their adopted home while retaining their own cultural identity. This book is recommended for elementary-age children.
One Mitten by Christine O'Connell George
Another mitten tale that will appeal to a preschool and kindergarten-age crowd. The rhyming text and theme of imaginative play make a great lead-in to an imaginary walk in the snow.
The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
A girl tries to find her lost mitten by retracing her steps. The conclusion of the tale is a heart-tugging moment—literally. You'll have to read this book to see what I mean. Kellogg is the author of The Giant Tadpole and other fanciful and far-fetched tales. I like his illustrations, but his real talent is pulling together a unique and entertaining story. Don't miss this one.
Missing Mittens by Stuart J. Murphy
Missing Mittens by Stuart J. Murphy and illustrated by G. Brian Karas is a story that introduces the math concepts of even and odd. Farmer Bill and all of the animals are missing a mitten. Who could be the culprit? The thing I chiefly enjoyed about this book was all the silly animal footprint-shaped mittens!
A Mountain of Mittens by Lynn Plourde
A Mountain of Mittens by Lynn Plourde is the story of the lost-and-found mitten pile and what happens when all the children at school try to reclaim their lost mittens all at the same time. This silly tale will have your audience giggling.
Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone
In Three Little Kittens, Paul Galdone retells and expands upon the traditional nursery rhyme that is perfect for reading during a library story hour. Paul Galdone is known for his retellings of traditional fables and fairy tales. This story is a very short read-aloud, with engaging illustrations that add some special humorous details. The three little kittens have some hilarious facial expressions!
The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel
The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel is a book to share with your emergent readers and pre-readers. The book uses pictures of the clothing items in place of some of the text, so children can read along with you during your story presentation. Children love being able to participate in reading a story. I recommend that you review the word pictures with the children before you begin reading with them.
Mitten Theme Enrichment Ideas
- Mitten matching game. Bring six or seven pairs of inexpensive mittens and choose volunteers from your audience to help you match the pairs of mittens together by choosing the correct match from a basket or paper bag.
- Whose mitten is missing play station. A variation of this idea uses stuffed animals each wearing one mitten from the pair. Arrange your stuffed animals in an attractive grouping and let children select one of the remaining mittens to try on a stuffed animal. Just for fun, you could also include an assortment of hats to go on the stuffed animals. This activity could be used to reinforce children's knowledge of colors and patterns.
- Mitten bulletin board. The first year I used this theme, I made about 8 different oversized paper mittens with different colors of felt applied to a sturdy cardstock background. Each colorful felt mitten had a mate that was an exact match. I posted these on a large bulletin board and mixed them up. The title on the bulletin board was "Mitten Match." You could also purchase several pair of real mittens from a dollar store where these are readily available and arrange the mittens on the bulletin board.
Children's Books With a Gingerbread Theme
December is gingerbread season. You can give this theme a thorough exploration because so many books have been written based on the traditional gingerbread man folktale—in fact, Jan Brett has authored two.
You may wish to decorate gingerbread cookies or make a paper bag gingerbread ornament as part of your children's story hour.
If you are very brave, you might even attempt a live retelling of the gingerbread man story. This story is very easy to remember and retell, and with a little practice, will hold your audience captive, even if you are a first-time storyteller.
You could also present a traditional version of the gingerbread man story, then look at a few of the fun variations from this list. Then invite your class or storytime group to write their own version of the gingerbread man tale.
The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone
Galdone is the go-to author for a clean, traditional version of just about any folktale or fairytale. I included this book first, because it's a great place to start. Galdone's stories are unapologetically traditional, which I appreciate, but also masterfully told. It's fun to mix up stories, but helpful to introduce young audiences to a topic for the first time.
The Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
Jan Brett's Gingerbread stories include The Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends. Each of these stories stars a young boy named Mattie, who brings an appealing human element to the traditional folktale. Jan Brett's Scandinavian-inspired illustrations are especially showstopping, complex, and delightful, with gingerbread-style trim on all the village houses. If you are unfamiliar with her body of work, I encourage you to visit Jan Brett's website. She offers many freebies such as coloring pages, games, and extension activities that she has created from the characters that appear in her stories.
Hansel and Gretel retold by Cynthia Rylant
Hansel and Gretel, retold by Cynthia Rylant with illustrations by Jen Corace, is a popular retelling of the original tale by the Brothers Grimm. The text of this particular version of the Hansel and Gretel story isn't as lengthy as some of the others, but the book is 40 pages long, which is eight pages more than the typical 32-page children's story. The beautiful illustrations remind me of children's picture books from much earlier eras.
The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock
The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock is another popular version of the gingerbread story. This story has the rhyming text "No! No!/I won't come back!/I'd rather run/Than be your snack!" which is original but easy to read aloud.
The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires
In this rendition, the gingerbread man encounters a wily coyote instead of a fox. The Western elements in this story make for an entertaining and spicy remix of the gingerbread tale, with all kinds of details straight from the Old West.
The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst
The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst promotes girl power with the smart gingerbread girl outfoxing the fox himself. This smart retelling received high reviews—except some parents and teachers found the author's word choices objectionable in a few places. You should decide for yourself, as this is a cute and original retelling of the story.
Ginger Bear by Mini Grey
Ginger Bear by Mini Grey is my last book recommendation for this article. It is a quirky revisit of the gingerbread story, with the family dog being the culprit instead of a fox. This story has a busy, almost frenzied feel and offers some delightful surprises (like when Ginger Bear decides to make a few friends). The resolution of the story is completely unique and ironic but is also somehow true to the original tale. You must read this story and decide if you want to use it in your story hour.
More Christmas and Winter Children's Picture Books
- My Favorite Christmas Picture Books
Several years ago I wanted to establish some memorable Christmas traditions with my young and growing family. My collection of Christmas-themed children's picture books grew out of a desire to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in my home. In this hu
- 10 Great Books to Read With Your Kids in December
One of the best things about Christmastime is all of the great books you get to read about the snow, snowmen, Santa, and hibernation, etc. You'll want to check out these 10 great books to read with your kids in December for some beautiful picks, grea
- 12 Great Winter Picture Storybooks to Get as Gifts for Your Kids and Grandkids
Here are reviews of 12 winter books that would make great gifts for kids. I've also included educational tips and activity ideas for each book. Recommended by a children's librarian.
© 2009 Carolyn Augustine
Cheri Schultz on October 04, 2009:
Beautiful - Thank for sharing...
Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 04, 2009:
A lovely collection of lovely children's stories. Thank you for your hub