Janssen Bradshaw’s Favorite Holiday and Christmas Books for Kids
Though Zulily partner Janssen Bradshaw earns a commission through sales of the books featured in this post, she independently selected and endorses every book on this list.
When was the last time you picked up a book, just for fun? If you had to take more than a couple of seconds to think about your answer, Janssen Bradshaw is on a mission to change that. The mastermind behind the is more than another reading enthusiast — she wants to help both women and kids find books they can’t put down, and she’s doing it one clever reading tip and illustrated reading log at a time, starting with children’s holiday and Christmas books.
After working as a children’s librarian, Provo, Utah-based Bradshaw started Everyday Reading to help everyone find books that help them remember (or discover for the first time) how fun reading can be. Her followers love her book recommendations – as well as her simple and smart tips to stay focused on reading (hint: put your phone in another room!) In addition to her made-for-moms’-schedules book club hosted weekly on Instagram live (viewable at your convenience), she offers easy, actionable takeaways to keep you and your kids’ reading – and permission to stop reading a book when it’s just not doing it for you.
In 2020, her passion for reading became a family affair — Bradshaw and her husband, Bart Bradshaw, launched Savvy Reader, an online program to help new readers, reluctant readers, and those who hated reading become confident, engaged readers. The couple have no doubt had plenty of opportunity to put their passions to work as parents of four girls, ages 5, 7, 9 and 12.
But fans especially love that Bradshaw’s site is loaded with fun, free, print-and-color illustrated reading log downloads. She collaborates with graphic designers to create engaging pages that can be printed out in various sizes, from standard paper to poster size.
Making Reading Fun Again
“The reading calendars came to be because a lot of libraries had summer reading programs, but more and more have gone to a digital format,” says Bradshaw, who is also a contributor to Penguin Random House’s Brightly blog, which encourages parents to raise enthusiastic readers. “It wasn’t as fun, and I had this idea percolating for a couple of years. I partnered with a designer and did the very first one. And it was hugely popular. People asked if I was going to do a Christmas one, and it spiraled from there.”
You’ll find reading logs for summer, year-round, as well as Advent calendar countdown-style reading logs for Halloween and the holidays.
Here, she shares with Zulily her own holiday reading traditions – and her favorite holiday and Christmas books for kids to gift for the holidays – as well as what sparked her love of reading in the first place.
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Shop some of Janssen Bradshaw’s favorite holiday and Christmas books for kids — and books for anyone, any time of year
Why are you so passionate about reading?
I love everything about reading. Personally, I love getting swept up in the world of a book, whether it’s a historical event, someone else’s love story, or visiting a fantasy world. It’s just pure magic and books have accompanied me at every stage of my life, from running boring errands with my mom when I was a child to beach vacations as an adult.
And now, as a parent, I love books and reading even more because it’s such a simple way to connect with my children. I’ve read piles of board books to my babies, stayed up way too late reading “just one more chapter” aloud to them before bed, and brought out beloved holiday titles every season of their childhood.
Truly, books feel like one of the easiest ways to spend quality time with my children, introduce them to the world all from the comfort of our couch, and create so many wonderful shared memories.
It’s one of the best things in my life to be able to share my passion for reading with hundreds of thousands of other parents around the world through my blog and Instagram account – I’ll never get over how lucky I am that it’s my job to talk about books I love and how to make them part of daily life.
What was the book that sparked your imagination for reading as a child?
I grew up in Wisconsin, and when I was about five, my mom started reading aloud Little House in the Big Woods to me. My younger sister and I shared a room, but she’d always fall asleep immediately and my mom would curl up with me on my twin bed and read aloud until she’d lose her voice. When we finished the book, we took a little day trip to visit the spot where the original Little House stood. More than 30 years later, I still remember that day.
Shortly after we finished the whole series, our tiny local library bought a replacement set and was selling the old hardback set my mom had read to me for 25 cents a book. My mom bought them and when I grew up, she gave me that set which I still have on my bookshelf – they’re one of my most treasured possessions and they remind me of my mom sparking that love of reading that’s remained with me my whole life.
How do you incorporate reading books as part of your routines and traditions with your family around the holidays?
On a daily basis, I read aloud to my girls every night before they go to bed. Usually, they braid my hair or paint their nails or color while I read aloud to them, and they always want just one more chapter! It’s such a sweet way to end our day together and it’s especially fun when my husband joins in because he really gets into the books (he’s a big reader too!).
I store my holiday books separately from the rest of our books so that when the holidays roll around, I can pull out those books and they feel special and new. My children love flipping through them and remembering their favorites from previous years. I usually add a few new books each year and I love selecting which ones will get a permanent home in our holiday library.
Janssen’s FAVORITE Children’s Books to Read — and Gift — for the Holidays
The moment this picture book came out a few years ago, I was OBSESSED. It’s so beautiful and a must-have for any Anne lover.
If I had to pick a favorite Christmas book (please don’t make me pick!) this one would definitely be on the short list – it has such a fun retro feel that I absolutely adore.
It doesn’t get more delightful than Santa Cat – my kids love this book every single year!
This book is so bright and happy and silly – Molly Idle can do no wrong in my book.
We added this to our Christmas book collection a few years ago and I’m pretty sure I read it aloud 200 times that year.
Our whole family LOVES the Narwhal and Jelly series and this holiday one does not miss.
You just can’t beat the Bear books and this Christmas story is a delightful addition to your collection!
Janssen’s Favorite Books for Gifting
If you need a perfect gift for a tween, this Phoebe and Her Unicorn boxed graphic novel series is a huge hit at our house with some fun Calvin & Hobbes vibes.
This stunning wordless picture book won the Caldecott about a decade ago and it’s an incredible retelling of this famous fable.
You can’t go wrong with this classic set – my kids have read and re-read these books for years!
For the classic lover in your life, this gorgeous set is the kind of thing you keep for a lifetime.
Have you seen these incredible books? My kids are OBSESSED with them — it looks like a basic spiral but as you start filling it in, an image starts to appear like magic.
Plus, Something Fun for You
If you’re looking for a lighthearted seasonal read for yourself or a friend, this romantic comedy is an absolute delight.
This book was on my annual Summer Reading Guide and it’s a delightful mystery that sucked me in from page one!
How can you not love Trader Joe’s? This cookbook is the perfect holiday gift for someone who loves a good and simple recipe.