The Read Aloud Project was created by Priscilla Weddle and Marie Benner-Rhoades to provide homeschooling resources in peace and justice during the pandemic. For December, the project highlighted books about Christmas. In January, books about new beginnings will be read. If you are interested in recording a video for the project, please email Priscilla at [email protected]. Here are the books that were read for the project in December:
Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde
Summary: “There is a wall in Ángel’s neighborhood. Around it, the community bustles with life: music, dancing, laughing. Not the wall. It is bleak. One boy decides to change that. But he can’t do it alone.”
Reflective Question: Is there something in your community that you can work on to make beautiful?
Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins
Summary: “It's almost time for Christmas, and Maria is traveling with her mother and younger brother, Juan, to visit their grandmother on the border of California and Mexico. For the few minutes they can share together along the fence, Maria and her brother plan to exchange stories and Christmas gifts with the grandmother they haven't seen in years. But when Juan's gift is too big to fit through the slats in the fence, Maria has a brilliant idea. She makes it into a kite that soars over the top of the iron bars. Here is a heartwarming tale of multi-cultural families, and the miracle of love.”
Reflective Question: Have you ever been away from someone for Christmas?
Hey, Little Ant by Philip and Hannah Hoose
Summary: “To squish or not to squish? Readers decide the ending of this deceptively playful picture book, in which a young boy and an ant debate the value of the smaller creature’s life. The boy tells the ant that someone so small couldn’t possibly have any feelings, and that he’s a crook for stealing food at picnics. The ant replies that he has a family and responsibilities, and that he and the boy are really not so different. How would the boy feel if the situation were reversed? Issues of ethics and peer pressure are also raised in the discussion.”
Reflective Question: What do you think the kid should do?
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Summary: “One Christmas Eve many years ago, a boy lies in bed, listening hard for the bells of Santa’s sleigh, which he has been told by a friend do not exist. Later that night he hears not bells but a very different sound. He looks out his window and is astounded to see a steam engine parked in front of his house! The conductor invites him to board the Polar Express, a train filled with children on their way to the North Pole. The train takes the children to the center of the city, where Santa and the elves have gathered for the giving of the first gift of Christmas. The boy is chosen to receive this first gift. Knowing that he can choose anything in the world, he decides on a simple gift: one silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. Santa cuts a bell from a reindeer’s harness and the delighted boy slips it into his bathrobe pocket as the clock strikes midnight and the reindeer pull the sleigh into the sky. When the children return to the train, the boy realizes the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. Heartbroken, he is returned to his home. In the morning, his little sister finds one small box with the boy’s name on it among the presents. Inside is the silver bell! The boy and his sister are enchanted by its beautiful sound, but their parents cannot hear it. The boy continues to believe in the spirit of Christmas and is able to hear the sweet ringing of the bell even as an adult.”
Reflective Question: Why do you think the boy was chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas?
Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? By Sarah Savage and Fox Fisher
Summary: Tiny loves costumes! Tiny likes to dress up as an animal, or a doctor, or a butterfly. Tiny also prefers not to tell other children whether they are a boy or a girl. Tiny's friends don't mind, but when Tiny starts a new school their new friends can't help asking one question: "Tiny, are you a boy or are you a girl?"
Reflective Questions: How are boys and girls different? Does it matter if Tiny is a boy or a girl? What would you ask Tiny if you met them?
Christmas Around the World by Lesley Sims
Summary: “Christmas customs, festive food, present-giving, songs and traditional stories from around the world with easy-reading text for children who have just started reading alone.”
Reflective Question: What are some of your family’s Christmas traditions?
Rachel’s Christmas Boat by Sophie LaBelle
Summary: “When Lulu’s Dad tells her that she’s going to change her name to Rachel and be a lady now, Lulu has a major worry: what if Santa doesn’t find out in time to fix all the tags on Rachel’s Christmas presents? Lulu decides to take matters into her own hands and make sure that her Dad gets the lovely Christmas she deserves for being a most wonderful person.”
Reflective Questions: Do you ever give presents to your friends and family? Do you make them presents? How do you feel when they open the presents you got them?
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
Summary: “Christmas Eve started out so perfectly for Maria. Snow had fallen and the streets glittered. Maria's favorite cousins were coming over and she got to help make the tamales for Christmas dinner. It was almost too good to be true when her mother left the kitchen for a moment and Maria got to try on her beautiful diamond ring . . . This is the story of a treasure thought to be lost in a batch of tamales; of a desperate and funny attempt by Maria and her cousins to eat their way out of trouble; and the warm way a family pulls together to make it a perfect Christmas after all.”
Reflective Question: What lesson did Maria learn in this story?
Potatoes, Potatoes by Anita Lobel
Summary: "Long ago there lived a loving mother who had two hardworking sons and a potato farm. As her sons grew older each ran off, one to join the army of the east and the other the army of the west. But after many battles were fought and they'd run out of food, the two boys and their armies returned to the old woman's farm...and fought for the potatoes. Only then did the folly of their conflict become clear, and they laid down their weapons forever."
Reflective Questions: Who is someone in your life that has taught you about peace and what it means to be a kind and loving neighbor? What walls are you breaking down as you grow and learn more about peace?
*The summaries above were provided by the publishers of each book.