Whether you choose a classic Christmas tale or a new holiday adventure, curl up with your little ones and some hot cocoa as you read one of our favorite Christmas books for kids.

By Nora Horvath and Real Simple Editors
Updated December 14, 2020
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Credit: courtesy of publishers

Sure, Christmas rolls around at the same time every year, but somehow the holiday looks different through the eyes of a child. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas with kids—Christmas crafts and the best Christmas movies on Netflix come immediately to mind—but there are also great Christmas books for kids to help put everyone in the holiday spirit.

Books are some of the best Christmas gifts around, but spending time reading together is its own gift. If you’re looking for a great Christmas book to read with children, look no further than our list of timeless Christmas books. Some of these books are true classics (and the sources of more than a few Christmas quotes), while others are more contemporary stories about Christmas, winter, and the holidays that little ones are sure to love.

Even adults might appreciate a gift of one of these books, especially one of the gorgeously illustrated or anniversary editions—though they’ll also surely appreciate one of the best books of 2020. Shop around for the right book for your brood (or friend or family member) and get ready for all the holiday cheer a book can provide.

Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

1

From $7, amazon.com

Strega Nona, Big Anthony, and the butcher’s daughter Bambolona get Strega Nona’s home ready for her large Christmas feast, but she refuses to use her magic to help get the job done. When the preparation goes wrong, will a Christmas miracle save the day, or will the feast be canceled this year?

Credit: Penguin Random House

2

From $8, bookshop.org

Keats received the 1963 Caldecott Medal for this gorgeously illustrated winter children’s book. In the story, a young boy named Peter ventures out to explore his city after the first snowfall of the season. This sweet book will bring back fond memories of snow days past for parents.

Credit: Amazon.com

3

$18, amazon.com

Charles Schulz’s beloved television special comes to life in this gorgeous deluxe picture book. As the Peanuts gang gets ready for the holiday, Charlie finds himself questioning the true meaning of Christmas. This story is perfect for longtime fans of Peanuts and new readers alike.

Credit: HarperCollins

4

$17, bookshop.org

While this classic book isn’t always thought of as a holiday read, the touching story of the mother tree providing selflessly to the boy teaches a valuable lesson about what it means to give to others without expecting anything in return.

Credit: Amazon.com

5

$10, amazon.com

The beloved character Bear is back for a sweet holiday adventure. Because he’s a particularly sleepy animal, Bear’s friends are determined to keep him awake to enjoy the holiday. Can he keep his eyes open long enough to find a tree, bake cakes, and sing with his friends?

Credit: Amazon.com

6

$17, amazon.com

Stick Man lives in a tree with his wife and three children, but his life is turned upside-down when he is carried off by a dog who just wants to play with him. How will he ever find his way back home? This quirky picture book is a heartwarming tale about home.

To buy: $15; amazon.com.

Credit: bookshop.org

7

$10, bookshop.org

Introduce your littlest ones to Charles Dickens’ iconic tale with this sweet board book. On each page they’ll discover new characters and colors.

Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

8

$8, bookshop.org

The holidays are a loud time in our lives, filled with busy schedules, caroling, and the laughter of loved ones. This sweet book reminds readers to appreciate the quiet parts of Christmas—the stillness of a snowfall or the silence of kids searching the house for a hopeful peek at presents.

Credit: Penguin Random House

9

From $8, amazon.com

This adorable sequel to The Gruffalo introduces readers to the Gruffalo’s child. When she goes off in the snowy woods alone to search for the Big Bad Mouse, whom she doesn’t believe in, she sees the shadow of a large creature looming over her. Could it be the Big Bad Mouse after all?

Credit: bookshop.org

10

From $16, bookshop.org

Your kids already love the movie adaptions, so introduce them to the book that started it all. When the Grinch sets out to ruin Christmas for the citizens of Whoville, he is surprised when the spirit of the season affects him. Will he get away with stealing their holiday, or will the true meaning of Christmas warm his cold, black heart?

Credit: Amazon.com

11

$20, amazon.com

Our favorite feisty pig is back, and this time she’s helping her parents prep for Christmas. She gets to work wrapping presents, decorating the tree, and playing in the snow—what could possibly go wrong?

Credit: Amazon.com

12

$12, amazon.com

There have been many versions of Clement C. Moore’s famous poem, but we recommend this beautifully illustrated version from Charles Santore. Each page of this oversized picture book is filled with gorgeous details, so your kids will find something new to treasure with each read.

Credit: bookshop.org

13

$5, bookshop.org

In this hilarious book, Little Critter gets ready for the festive season by making wreaths, baking (and eating) gingerbread cookies, and helping his parents decorate the tree.

Credit: Amazon.com

14

From $9, amazon.com

The beauty of this classic song is brought to life with gorgeous illustrations from Laurel Long, set during Christmastime in the countryside. As each day in the song goes by, the gifts from previous pages are hidden in the background of the new pictures, so kids will have something fun to look for on each page.

Credit: Amazon.com

15

$9, amazon.com

While the snow falls on Christmas Eve, a mysterious train heads from door to door to bring children to see Santa, so that they may tell him their Christmas wishes. This classic picture book, published in 1985, inspired the 2004 movie of the same name and is read to millions of children each holiday.

Credit: Penguin Random House

16

$15, amazon.com

This book is a holiday sequel to Snowmen at Night, which told the story of what snowmen do after people go to bed. In this version, children will learn how snowmen celebrate Christmas, while the rest of the world is busy celebrating with their families.

Credit: bookshop.org

17

From $8, bookshop.org

Your children probably know the song and the cartoon version of this story, and now you can introduce them to Robert L. May’s original Rudolph with beautiful illustrations from Antonio Javier Caparo. When Rudolph is bullied by his peers for his unusual red nose, he worries Santa will never choose him to pull the sleigh. But on a particularly overcast night, he has the opportunity to shine and save Christmas for everyone.

Credit: Canongate

18

$8, bookshop.org

This funny Christmas tale is perfect for children who are reading on their own. It tells the story of Amelia Wishart, the first child to ever receive a Christmas present, inspiring Santa to bring gifts to children all over the world. But when her hope begins to fade, Santa can sense something is wrong—and he sets out to find her and help her believe once again.