Wednesday 25 December 2019

Keeping kids focused on the real meaning of Christmas - an Advent reading resource

We're huge fans of the Christmas season in our family, and we enjoy many of the modern Western cultural traditions that go along with it - in fact we often adjust the pace of our regular learning during December to make more space to enjoy the build-up to Christmas.

However, like any family we also battle with "hearts and minds" with our kids (and ourselves!) around becoming too focused on "getting" and the whole commercialisation of the festive season.

This year we added a reading routine which really helped us be more balanced as a family in the lead up to Christmas Day, and it's a tradition we plan to keep up in future years.

Every evening during December we read a chapter of a book called Bartholomew's Passage, by Arnold Ytreeide. It's a well crafted and engaging story that runs in parallel with the Biblical narrative, and each chapter has a short reflection on the real "reason for the season" in language that's aimed at and accessible to children.

"The best part of it was when he met Jotham" (Asher, 7)

As dad, reading to our three kids individually at bedtime is often a highlight of my day and an important time for relational connection (and we can recommend The Read Aloud Handbook for why it's so important!). For reading Bartholomew's Passage we mixed things up a bit, and I read to all three kids together, by the light of our advent candle. They loved turning all the lights off, snuggling in their pyjamas under blankets and listening to the story, and they were all engaged (from age 3 -10), although it's fair to say that older kids will get more out of it.

It did genuinely feel like we'd been on a journey together with the characters over the month, and I was impressed with the quality of the narrative and the shock-factor of some of the moments. The last chapter was particularly poignant and moving - up there with other tear-shedding moments in literature like the death of Thorin in the Hobbit and when the dog Jack dies in the Little House series.

"It's a great heartfelt story with a nice ending and it really helps find the true meaning of advent". (Eden, 10)

The good news is that the author has written a number of these Advent "journey" books, and we're definitely planning to read another next year.

If you're looking for ways to pop (or at least deflate) the selfish consumerist bubble that surrounds Christmas these days, and get closer to the heart of the story, we'd definitely recommend Bartholomew's Passage or the other books in the series. (And no, this hasn't been a sponsored post, just a genuine recommendation of a book we've enjoyed).

Do you have any reading traditions over Christmas? We'd love to hear them - either comment below, email us ( or message us on Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed our post. Some small print on our recommendations is in this post.

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