The winter solstice marks a new season filled with snowflakes, hot chocolate, sledding, and lots of time for cozy reading. The sense of wonder and enchantment that surrounds winter is especially profound for children and is a popular theme for authors. Finding the most engaging and appropriate literature, however, can be a difficult task for parents. Age range, content, vocabulary, and developmental readiness are all factors that need to be considered when choosing books for reading to and with children.
A curated list of some of the best winter-themed books will be important to have in your arsenal for those blustery days when it’s best to stay inside and imagine.
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
Through intricate pictures and themes of perseverance, Virginia Lee Burton tells the tale of Katy, a brave tractor working to plow her town out from a giant blanket of snow. Katy rises to the occasion, and with hard work and determination is able to clear all of the snow and help the city return to normal. The beautifully illustrated book is charming and old-fashioned in its appearance, while containing an empowering moral of patience and persistence.
Although Katy is a fantastic book for all readers, it is especially poignant for girls, as the main character is a female vehicle, a personification traditionally reserved for boys.
Burton’s story is timeless in its message and, despite the fact that it was published in 1943, Katy and the Big Snow still delights and inspires readers today.
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Animal-loving children ages 3 and up will adore Jan Brett’s The Mitten. The author recreates a traditional Ukrainian folktale, which tells the story of a boy named Nicki who loses one of his newly knitted white mittens in the snow. One by one, eight different animals squeeze into the mitten to enjoy the wooly warmth inside. Brett eloquently creates a sense of anticipation about what will happen as more and more animals attempt to fit into the small space. Will the mitten burst? Will the animals continue to let others join? The illustrations in The Mitten feature the details and foreshadowing borders that Brett is well known for and that add additional suspense to the narrative. This technique allows young readers to make predictions and gives them ownership over telling the story, even if they cannot actually read the text.
Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda
For an interactive wintry reading experience, pick up a copy of Bunny Slopes, by Claudia Rueda.
The story urges the reader to turn, shake, and tap the book in order to help the bunny ride down a ski slope. This kind of hands-on interaction with literature is particularly appealing to younger audiences who are just beginning to follow narratives.
Because the book requires them to be active participants, they will be more likely to recall the beginning, middle, and end components of the story, an important skill for emerging readers. The simplicity of the narrative and illustrations, mixed with the fun font choices for action words, makes Bunny Slopes a book children will want to read again and again.
Red Sled by Lita Judge
Reading to children provides a way to teach them how to make predictions in a narrative. Lita Judge’s Red Sled is perfect for such lessons as it is almost wordless, inviting readers to gather information from illustrations, make inferences, and help tell the story themselves. Judge’s use of onomatopoeia in the few words she does include, such as the “scrinch, scrunch” of the snow is engaging and perfect for reading aloud. Picture books with little to no text, like Red Sled, are wonderful in their ability to help children develop oral language and retelling skills, which support emergent reading. Young children love this book because they are able to successfully “retell” the story using their own words, making it accessible to audiences of many ages.
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian
"Of all the forms of water the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow are incomparably the most beautiful and varied." -- Wilson Bentley (1865-1931)
Many picture books are solely fiction, comprised of fantastical ideas that typically would not take place in reality. Snowflake Bentley, however, is a wonderful winter book that can introduce the genre of non-fiction to children ages 4 and over. Wilson Bentley was fascinated by snowflakes from a very young age, and as he grew older, decided to attempt to photograph them. Not everyone at the time understood Bentley’s passion, and many found his efforts strange. His photos, however, are the reason that we now know that no two snowflakes are alike. His tale of determination and passion is depicted through woodcuts and a narrative that is simple enough to truly explain the science behind the story.