Reading Advent Calendars: Make It A Family Affair

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Ann-Marie Cahill


Ann-Marie Cahill will read anything and everything. From novels to trading cards to the inside of CD covers (they’re still a thing, right?). A good day is when her kids bring notes home from school. A bad day is when she has to pry a book from her kids’ hands. And then realizes where they get it from. The only thing Ann-Marie loves more than reading is travelling. She has expensive hobbies.

There are plenty of Advent Calendar ideas available at this time of year. Traditional options like chocolate and sweet treats are always popular and easy to find; every corner shop in town has a version. For more specific deals, I’m a fan of the Lego Advent Calendar or the new geeky socks at Target. And then there is the suggestion from a couple of teachers I know: the wine bottle advent calendar.

My favourite right now is the Reading Advent Calendar, like this one from Danika last year. Take a bunch of books (buy or borrow from the library), wrap them in some wrapping paper, and open one each day leading up to Christmas Day.

Just one little issue: We don’t celebrate Christmas. I’m Pagan, my husband is an atheist, and the kids are undecided. We love the idea of celebrating at the end of the year, we simply have our own way. We celebrate Summer Solstice; as both pagans and scientists.

Wait. What is Solstice?

The Solstice occurs when either Pole is closest to the Sun. The hemisphere closest to the Sun gains the extra daylight while the hemisphere farther away experiences a long, long night. My family lives in the Southern Hemisphere and are subsequently celebrating the Summer Solstice. Scientifically, it gives us a very long day of sunshine and light. Symbolically, it gives us a day to think of all the sunshine we have received from loved ones. Light and love and laughter, all the cool stuff that makes our year memorable.

This gave me an idea for an advent calendar more suited to our celebrations. A really good idea, if I do say so myself. But one that requires help from others…

Make Your Advent Personal

I asked family and friends to suggest their favourite books for kids: books they read as kids, books they like to read as kids, books they would love to read with our kids. A list of 21 books for us to read with our kids, one each day starting 1 December and ending on 21 December, the day before the Summer Solstice for Australia this year.

This was not a wish list of books to buy. In fact, I was totally expecting for most of the books to be in our collection already. The goal is to read a book every day and take a moment to appreciate the person who suggested the book. It’s our way of being grateful for all of the awesome friends and family, and all the sunshine they bring to us. It’s a win-win: they share something of themselves with us; we read a book personally suggested by family and friends.

What Made The List

The response has been amazing. Absolutely amazing.

advent reading calendar

  1. Worm Loves Worm written by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato
  2. Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman
  3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  4. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss
  5. The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird by Kim Smith
  6. Chloe and the Lion written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
  7. The Night of the Moon by Hena Khan
  8. Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
  9. Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed
  • Suho and the White Horse by Yuzo Otsuka
  • I am Albert Einstein by Brad MeltzerAdvent reading calendar
  • WeirDo 1 by Ahn Do
  • I am Invited to a Party by Mo Willems
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • The Answer by Rebecca Sugar
  • The Monster at the End of the Book written by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin
  • The Little Mouse, The Red-Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood
  • Two Weeks with the Queen by Morris Gleitzman
  • On a Magical Do Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna
  • My Home Broome by Tamzyn Richardson and Bronwyn Houston
  • Jazz by Walter Dean Myers

    Now To Read Them All

    I had to cull a few from the list. It was not an easy task. Our friends and family were so enthusiastic to participate, many of them suggested two or more. While it was heartbreaking to take any off the reading list, I tried to include at least one book from each person to share with us. If a book was suggested twice, it was On The List. Some of these books will need more than a day to read them. Reading at least the first chapter is always a good introduction for the kids, giving them a taste of the storytelling and the insight behind the suggestions. If the kids want to read more, who am I to say no?

    The most exciting part is yet to come. We won’t start our advent reading calendar until 1 December, and I am really looking forward to this. We have always loved reading time with our kids. This is adding a whole new level to it.

    Advent Calendars are simply a tool for counting down to any special occasion. Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” You can make an advent calendar for any special occasion coming up in your calendar. Make it any way you want.