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County librarians recommend favorite holiday books

Bridget Weleski, youth services leader at South Butler Community Library, holds up two favorite Christmas books
Bridget Weleski, youth services leader at South Butler Community Library, holds up two favorite Christmas books she reads aloud to children at this time of year, “Bear Stays Up For Christmas” by Karma Wilson and “Little Red Sleigh” by Erin Guendelsberger. Eric Freehling/Special to the Eagle

A love of reading is the best gift to give children at Christmas. It’s something that can be used all year long, one size fits all and it never goes out of style.

Youth services librarians in Butler County get the gift giving started well before the holidays by reading aloud from festive favorites.

Bridget Weleski, the youth services leader at the South Butler Community Library, 240 W. Main St., Saxonburg, lists “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree” by Robert Berry as one of her favorites to share during story times at the library at this time of year.

“This is a classic Christmas story about Mr. Willowby’s tree problem that comes full circle,” said Weleski. “The tree is too big for his house, and they keep cutting off the top of the Christmas tree. They throw the tops out, but somebody else uses them, and they don’t even know they are using it.”

Weleski also lists “Bear Stays Up For Christmas” by Karma Wilson as a go-to read for the season.

“This is about a bear who wants to stay up at night for Christmas. He doesn’t want to sleep for Christmas. And he wraps presents for his friends, but he doesn’t notice that Santa has a special present for him,” said Weleski.

She added “Bear” has a nice rhyming pattern and repetitive phrases that children can say as she reads.

“Children like that. Anything that is interactive is great,” Weleski said.

“Bear Stays Up For Christmas” is also one of the favorites of Suzanne Adams, the children’s librarian at the Prospect Community Library, 357 Main St., Prospect.

“In ‘Bear Stays Up For Christmas,’ he’s hibernating and his friends come and wake him just so they can celebrate Christmas together. That’s a good preschool one,” said Adams.

Kelsey Grushecky, the program and outreach director at Mars Area Public Library, 107 Grand Ave., Mars, sees a lot of preschoolers during her visits to day cares each month.

“I see all different ages of kids from pre-toddler to kindergarten age,” Grushecky said.

Grushecky noted there are other holidays in December as well as Christmas. One of her favorite books to read to young children is “Bee Bim Bop” by Linda Sue Park, the story of a Korean American girl celebrates food and family in a rhyming book about cooking a special meal.

“It’s always a nice opportunity to share things they may not have experienced before,” she said.

For older children, Grushecky said last year she suggests “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg, but found it was a little advanced for her young audience.

“If they aren’t paying attention to the story it’s hard to get,” she said.

Ideally, a read-aloud Christmas book should be something silly and easy to understand, she said, and “Little Santa” by Jon Agee meets this standard.

“I quite like that book,” Grushecky said.

“Little Santa” also gets a thumbs-up from Weleski.

“It’s about Santa when he was little and how he became Santa Claus,” Weleski said making it relatable to young children.

“I love ‘Little Santa’ because it tells Santa’s story from a different viewpoint, and it’s really funny,” she said.

Another of Weleski’s favorites featuring a character with big dreams is “Little Red Sleigh” by Erin Guendelsberger.

“It’s about a little sleigh with big dreams to become Santa’s sleigh. It has a really nice message about working to achieve what people think is impossible,” she said.

For older children, Adams said “The Polar Express” is one of her favorites.

“The illustrations are just gorgeous. I like books with illustrations. It’s for older children because there are a lot of words in it,” Adams said. “I would say ‘Polar Express’ is good for older kids, kindergarten through elementary.”

For younger children, Adams said a Yuletide standout is “Moo, Bah, Fa La La La La” by Sandra Boynton.

“She’s just a classic author for kids for a long time. The illustrations are adorable. It’s about animals singing Christmas carols,” Adams said.

Grushecky said what makes a book a good read-aloud book that children will listen to is a simple story and humor. It helps to do voices, too.

“Kids love to laugh and then they are engaged with the story,” Grushecky said.

“If they can see that reading is fun, they will be encouraged to read. If they are smiling and laughing, reading won’t seem so scary,” she said.

Adams agreed.

“You teach them the love of reading, you make reading fun, and it’s a great experience,” she said. “When you read to kids at a young age, it develops a lifelong love of reading.”

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