From The Beacon: Put down the tinsel, pick up a book

The days are shorter, the nights are cooler and families are getting busier. It's so easy to get caught up in the rush of holiday activities, but these are the times when memories are made.

It's so important to remember that when we read to our children, we are not only sharing precious time together, but we are giving them a gift that will last beyond any holiday -- the gift of the love of reading. When children learn to love to read, they will do better in school and be better prepared for the rigors of work and of life. Be sure to take time out from the holiday preparations by gathering the family to relax together with a great book. Everyone is sure to get into the holiday spirit after sharing some of our favorite seasonal stories.

"Counting Christmas" by Karen Katz: Perfect for toddlers and little hands, this charming little book counts traditional holiday items from 10 tiny lights to one magical day for families to share. Each illustration features adorable babies happily discovering the surprises of December holidays. Your little ones will enjoy looking at pictures of other toddlers, and older children will enjoy finding and counting the tiny snowflakes on the page borders.

"Bear Stays Up for Christmas" by Karma Wilson: Animal friends in the forest are getting ready for Christmas, but Bear is ready to hibernate. Poor Bear can barely keep his eyes open as the friends select a Christmas tree, hang decorations and sing Christmas carols. Bear stays awake bustling and baking even after the other animals fall asleep, but will he be able to stay awake long enough to enjoy presents on Christmas morning?

"This is the Dreidel" by Abby Levine: Max and his family get out the dreidel, light the menorah, eat latkes and enjoy spending time with family. This is a fun rhyming story with detailed colored pencil illustrations sure to please children whether they celebrate Hanukkah or not. The author has also included a handy list of vocabulary and definitions.

"Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear!" by Don and Audrey Wood: Mouse works hard to get ready for Christmas but worries that a bear will take his presents. Young readers are sure to smile at the book's large bright paintings depicting Mouse's attempts to guard his presents and will be pleasantly surprised to see brave little Mouse dressed as Santa, trudging through the snow to leave a present at the big bear's cave.

"Santa's Stuck" by Rhonda Gowler Greene and Henry Cole: Santa enjoys one too many Christmas treats and endures a Christmas catastrophe when he gets stuck in the chimney. The family pets try to push him out from below as reindeer pull from above, but "no luck, Santa's stuck!" Finally a mouse in the house gets a brilliant idea (complete with illustrated light bulb, of course). Children will enjoy the refrain and will cheer mouse's clever rescue attempt.

"My First Kwanzaa" by Karen Katz: Simple text and large colorful pages feature a young girl's family preparing for Kwanzaa. The book provides an overview of the holiday's seven principles, foods and gifts. In addition to introducing the seven principles, the book also includes a helpful pronunciation guide.

Be sure to stop by your local branch library to pick up a schedule of December events and a few holiday stories to take home. From our library family to yours, happy holidays!