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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Give and Receive the Gift Of Reading Together This Holiday Season

Updated: Jan 24

A Holiday Gift Guide UPDATE and GIVEAWAY of Books to Read Aloud with Your Kids!

by Scott Beller, Daddying Blog Editor

Daddying blog editor Scott Beller with his daughters and Brad Meltzer holding book "I Am Jim Henson"
My girls and I with best-selling author and dad Brad Meltzer after a talk on his "I Am..." books and Jim Henson, 2017

Every once in a while, I asked my mom, who would have been 72 today, "Did you see [insert name of famous author or interesting personality] is coming out with a new book?"

And every time, her frustrating reply would be, "Honey, you know I don't read."

I knew that wasn't true.

I remember my mom reading to me almost every day as a kid. Dr. Seuss, Sendak, The Brothers Grimm. I remember hearing her voice, warm, energetic, and song-like, as its cadence perfectly shifted with each change of character and scene. Having my mom read you a story was almost like witnessing musical theater, another love she instilled in me. Incidentally, these qualities also made her a fantastic singer...and joke teller.

"Honey, you know I don't read." Please.

Cover of book, "Beggars or Angels" by Scott Beller and Rosemary Tran Lauer

Seven years ago, I got her to change her tune, though briefly, when I published my first book, Beggars Or Angels, a ghostwritten memoir for another amazing mother, Rosemary Tran Lauer. Mom admitted it was the first book she'd read, cover to cover since I was in school. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to publish another book during her lifetime, though I did provide her with piles of other reading material – numerous articles and social media posts I've written since, including ones with plenty of photos of her grandkids. I counted those as small victories.

In my original Holiday Reading Gift Guide post, I attributed my love of books to my mother, (and my grandmother and elementary school teachers) because she read to me regularly. Not only that, but I saw her reading too. And it didn't matter whether it was Erma Bombeck or Agatha Christie, or some Harlequin Romance. To me, the communion we shared while reading was an even greater gift than reading the books themselves.

So, on her birthday, I want to say, "Thanks, momma. You were the most giving person I've ever known. I wish you could read this now and I could hear your voice again."

As mentioned in my earlier post, although I've found it harder to make time to read (for pleasure) as an adult, I’m thankful for the opportunities I've had as a dad to sit with my daughters on my lap, or curled up beside me in their beds, as I read to them. So many studies have shown the myriad benefits parents and children receive when they read together. Not the least of which is the strong relationship bonds we create in the process. And those benefits aren't just gained by developing toddlers. New research shows that even older kids and their parents derive positive results when they read aloud together. And reading together may be especially beneficial during stressful times, like our lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

Quote by author Neil Gaiman

So, as you ponder the perfect gifts for your children, consider giving them...the world. Give them books you'll both enjoy reading and read to them every chance you get. You'll give them the joy of discovering something new together. You'll give them the incredible feeling of warmth of being near you and of your voice as you make all the characters and sound effects come to life. You'll give them that irreplaceable feeling of connection. Best of all, you'll give AND receive all these things, even if they've outgrown your lap.

To that end, the merry DCG DADvisory Team and I have curated – and now supplemented based on responses to our previous Holiday Gift Guide post – the following collection of our all-time favorite books. The collection includes books we enjoyed reading or having read to us as kids as well as books we've enjoyed sharing with our own children and/or grandchildren.

At the end of our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide below, you'll find a Rafflecopter online entry form for DCG's first BOOKS TO READ ALOUD GIVEAWAY! Yep, we're giving away several books that appear in our Holiday Gift Guide, all but one of them have been signed by their respective authors. The giveaway is FREE to enter, but check the Rafflecopter entry form for details on ways to improve your chances of winning the book(s) of your choice. The giveaway runs through Tuesday, December 23rd, and all giveaway books will be mailed to winners ASAP in January 2021.

Rob Richardson with granddaughter holding Captain Underpants books
DADvisor and DADDYING contributor Rob Richardson with granddaughter Emma.

After you've entered to win some free books in our giveaway, finished shopping for other great books listed below, and are done browsing other Daddying holiday gifts in the DADvocacy Store, you might consider donating a few new or used books to your child's school, library, or local nonprofit.

Or maybe you'll consider contributing to a national organization like First Book, which provides books to children in need, many of whom don't yet own a book of their own. First Book emphasizes that for the millions of kids it serves, "books provide comfort, an escape from the unknown, and a chance to 'try on' the world before they must go out into it."

So, here's to giving the gift of a good book (or Daddying stress ball) this holiday season. Of course, you could always just make up your own bedtime stories for the kids...

Happy holidays, keep reading, and Daddy on!

My Top 20-ish Book Recommendations:

  1. More Bears!, Kenn Nesbitt and Troy Cummings

  2. Crenshaw and The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate (recommended by my 13-year-old daughter – I read both to her aloud and remember getting choked up more than a few times.)

  3. Flora & Ulysses, Kate DiCamillo

  4. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale series and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus series by Mo Willems

  5. The Cricket In Times Square, George Selden & Garth Williams

  6. Corduroy, Don Freeman

  7. Sneetches and Other Tales, Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? and McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss

  8. The Monster At the End of This Book, Jon Stone

  9. If You Give A Moose A Muffin (among others in the series), Laura Numeroff

  10. Olivia and Olivia Helps With Christmas, Ian Falconer

  11. What Do People Do All Day?, Richard Scarry

  12. Dragons Love Tacos and Those Darn Squirrels, Adam Rubin

  13. The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald

  14. James and the Giant Peach and anything else by Roald Dahl

  15. All the Wrong Questions mystery series by Lemony Snicket

  16. Henry Reed, Inc., Keith Robertson

  17. Runaway Ralph, Beverly Cleary

  18. Dandelion Wine and the short story collections of Ray Bradbury

  19. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

  20. The Bobbsey Twins series by Laura Lee Hope

  21. The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer and Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth, Frank Cottrell Boyce (recommended by my 11-year-old daughter)

  22. And any Agatha Christie novel or collection. Thanks to my grandmother, I became a Hercule Poirot fan (and a fan of reading) early on.

DADvisory Team BOOK Recommendations

Allan Shedlin, Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group, DADDYING contributor:

  1. The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf

  2. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

  3. The North Star, Peter H. Reynolds

  4. The Whoosh Of Gadoosh, Pat Skene

  5. Caps for Sale, Esphyr Slobodkina

  6. Leo the Late Bloomer, Robert Kraus

  7. The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper

  8. GIVEAWAY BOOK: Jonathan James & the Whatif Monster, Michelle Nelson-Schmidt

  9. Shy Spaghetti & Excited Eggs, Marc Nemiroff & Jane Annunziata

  10. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Doreen Cronin

  11. Wemberly Worried, Kevin Henkes

  12. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Charlie Mackesy

  13. Chrysanthemum, Kevin Henkes

  14. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

  15. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

  16. GIVEAWAY BOOK: Tiny Infinities, J.H.Diehl

  17. The Gift of Nothing, Patrick McDonnell

  18. The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

  19. Milo's Hat Trick, Jon Agee

  20. Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems

  21. Could be Worse!, James Stevenson

  22. Samuel's Story by DADvisor Hakim Bellamy

  23. GIVEAWAY BOOK: The Freedom of Limits by Allan Shedlin

  24. GIVEAWAY BOOK: If God Invented Baseball by E. Ethelbert Miller

Rob Richardson, DADvisor & DADDYING contributor:

  1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

  2. Run Silent, Run Deep, Edward L. Beach

Ben King, Founder of Armor Down, DADvisor, & DADDYING contributor:

Anthony Fleg, DADvisor & DADDYING contributor:

  1. Big Dog, Little Dog, P.D. Eastman

  2. Berenstain Bears, Stan and Jan Berenstain

Monica Zamora, DADvisor & DADDYING contributor:

  1. Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary

  2. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

  3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

  4. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

  5. Animal Farm, George Orwell

  6. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

  7. Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls

Hakim Bellamy, DADvisor & DADDYING contributor:

  1. Choose Your Own Adventure book series, R.A. Montgomery

  2. Becoming Muhammad Ali, James Patterson & Kwame Alexander

  3. The Crossover and Booked, Kwame Alexander

  4. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism & You, Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

  5. Hardy Boys series by Franklin Dixon

Dr. Randell Turner, Principal DADvocate & DADDYING contributor:

Nigel Vann, DADvisor:

  1. Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine

  2. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

  3. Peter Rabbit series by Beatrix Potter

  4. Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

  5. Postman Pat series by John Cunliffe

  6. Chanticleer and the Fox, Barbara Clooney

Neil Tift, Principal DADvocate & DADDYING contributor:

  1. As a dad of two adopted daughters, one of my absolute favorites is Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis

  2. Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

David Goldstein, DADvisor & Director of Special Projects:

  1. Oh, The Places You'll Go, Dr. Seuss

  2. Castle of Books, Bernard Clavel

  3. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, William Steig

  4. If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Laura Numeroff

  5. The Dot and Ish, Peter Reynolds

  6. On the Day You Were Born, Debra Fraser

  7. Niccolini's Song, Chuck Wilcoxen

  8. My Life with the Wave, Catherine Cowen and Mark Buehner

  9. Dinner at the Panda Palace, Stephanie Calmenson

  10. Pigaroons, Arthur Guisert

  11. Mr. Archimedes' Bath, Pamela Allen

  12. Everyone Poops, Taro Gomi

Jenise Davis, DADvisor:

  1. Are You My Mother?, P.D. Eastman

  2. The Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Andersen

  3. Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parish

Ben Garber, IT Director, DCG:

  1. Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

Deborah Boldt, Executive Director, REEL FATHERS, DADvisor:

  1. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, originally by Robert Southey and adapted by many!

  2. The Little Engine that Could, Watty Piper

  3. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Virginia Lee Burton

  4. Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder

  5. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

  6. Justin Morgan Had A Horse, Marguerite Henry

  7. Books by Thornton Burgess

  8. Eloise series by Kay Thompson

  9. Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans

And if our Daddy/Mommy-approved list wasn’t enough, here are some more recommended read-aloud books you might like to share with your kids, whatever their age:


For Younger Kids (Under 8):

  1. Lulu and the Hunger Monster, Erik Talkin

  2. I Am Anne Frank, I Am Benjamin Franklin, I Am Jim Henson, and many others from the “Ordinary People Change the World” series by Brad Meltzer and Chris Eliopoulos

  3. GIVEAWAY BOOK: The Three Wishes: A Christmas Story, Alan Snow

  4. A Different Pond, Bao Phi

  5. Daddy Daughter Day, Isabelle Bridges-Bosch & her father Jeff Bridges

  6. I'm Not Just A Scribble and Snippets: A Story About Paper Shapes, Diane Alber

  7. On Account of the Gum, Adam Rex

  8. The Story of Fred Rogers, Susan B. Katz

  9. Hair Love, Matthew A. Cherry

  10. What Do You Do With An Idea, What Do You Do With A Problem, and What Do You Do With A Chance, Kobi Yamada

  11. The Most Magnificent Thing, Ashley Spires

  12. I Don't Like To Eat Ants, JTK Belle

  13. Act Normal - And Don't Tell Anyone About the Dinosaur in the Garden, Christian Darkin

  14. Sam & Dave Dig A Hole, Mac Barnett

  15. If You Come To Earth, Sophie Blackall

  16. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, Debbie Levy

  17. Mixed: A Colorful Story, Arree Chung

  18. Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug, Jonathan Stutzman

  19. Snow, Uri Shulevitz

  20. Waiting, Kevin Henkes

  21. Even Superheroes Have Bad Days, Shelly Becker

  22. Dear Girl: A Celebration of Wonderful, Smart, Beautiful You!, Amy Kraus Rosenthal & Paris Rosenthal

  23. Dear Boy: A Celebration of Cool, Clever, Compassionate You!, Paris Rosenthal

  24. I Promise, LeBron James

  25. The Scariest Book In the Whole Entire World, Joey Acker

  26. Frances the Badger series by Russell Hoban (recommended by Christina Shedlin Garber)

For Older Kids (8-12):

  1. Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff In Simple Words, Randall Munroe

  2. Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L Konigsburg

  3. Wild Robot, Peter Brown

  4. Stories For Boys Who Dare To Be Different, Ben Brooks

  5. Kindness Starts With You, Jacquelyn Stagg

  6. Hello, Universe, Erin Entrada Kelly

  7. Wish, Barbara O'Connor

  8. The Family Under the Bridge, Natalie Savage Carlson

  9. Grand Canyon, Jason Chin

  10. Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhhà Lai

  11. The Book Of Boy, Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

  12. As Brave As You, Jason Reynolds

  13. The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall

  14. When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

  15. Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, Chris Priestley

  16. The Something Queer series by Elizabeth Levy (recommended by Christina Shedlin Garber)

  17. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein and Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (recommended by Samantha Shedlin Berkowitz)

Middle School and Up:

  1. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill

  2. Coraline, Neil Gaiman

  3. A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

  4. Fever 1793 and The Seeds of America trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson

  5. A Promised Land, Barack Obama, and Becoming, Michelle Obama

  6. Echo Mountain, Lauren Wolk

  7. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien

  8. The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne

  9. My Own Words, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

  10. Across That Bridge, John Lewis, and His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope, Jon Meacham

  11. The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Judy Blume (recommended by Raya Shedlin Vigil)

Looking for MORE book recommendations? Check out this "Best 25 Children's Books of 2020" list from The New York Times or this "Best Children's Books of 2020" compilation from The Washington Post. But FIRST, enter our giveaway to possibly win great read-aloud books from our lists above:

WE'RE GIVING AWAY GREAT Read-Aloud BOOKS from our holiday Gift guide!

ENTER and SHARE our Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Giveaway ran through Thursday, December 31, 2020, @ 11:59 pm ET


Scott Beller is the proud, imperfect dad of two mighty girls, Morgan and Lauren, and also Editor of the Daddying blog, DCG's Director of Communications, and staunch advocate of reading aloud to kids. He's a seasoned writer and PR agency veteran with more than 25 years of experience helping organizations of all sizes reach audiences and tell their stories. Prior to launching his own communications consultancy in 2003, he led PR teams with some of the world’s most respected agencies, including Fleishman-Hillard and The Weber Group. As a consultant, he’s helped launch two other parenting advocacy nonprofits with DCG founder Allan Shedlin. His first book, Beggars or Angels, was a ghostwritten memoir for the nonprofit Devotion to Children's founder Rosemary Tran Lauer. He was formerly known as "Imperfect Dad" and Head Writer for the Raising Nerd blog, which supported parents in inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and creative problem solvers. He earned his BA in Communications from VA Tech.


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