Here's a thought: Instead of another pie, bring a book to Thanksgiving dinner.
Okay, I have nothing against pie. I like pie. A lot of pie! But when I talk to my kids about Thanksgiving dinner their enthusiasm leaves a little something to be desired.
"But I don't LIKE turkey!"
"Mashed potatoes are icky!"
"Can I have chicken tenders?"
And, suspiciously, "What KIND of pie?"
So we're totally 4 and 6 over here. And yes, I assured them that I'll make their favorite macaroni and cheese and bring a fruit platter! The point is, on a day when the meal is the thing (and it's really not their thing), I want to at least impress on them the significance of the day. And that's when I turn to an extra helping of books.
The past few years I've collected a load of Thanksgiving lit that dishes an extra sense of gratitude, feeds us nourishing history, and creates a lot of joy for entering the holidays. They're great for reading up until the big day, but also, I consider a relaxing and meaningful way to connect with the littles after-- or during-- those slices of pie.
No time to purchase? Look these up on Youtube for fun readaloud presentations!
1. The Story of the Pilgrims, by Katharine Rossha and Carolyn Croll
This little book has been one of the easiest for teaching my kids about the pilgrims, and they really enjoy looking at the pictures. The text is simple, but precise, and the illustrations are soft and engaging. Let's face it, the pilgrim story is winding and complicated, but this little book helps convey the basics about the pilgrim's desire for religious freedom, the bravery and hardships of the journey, and the miracle of the new settlement.
2. If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, by Anne McGovern and Anna DiVito
Hand this book over to the kids who want to know everything! Written in question and answer format, it provides all kinds of cool information about who was on the Mayflower (not just religious pilgrims!), what cargo was carried (could you eat dried meat and beans for a year?), and what daily life looked like once the Mayflower company settled in Plymouth. The illustrations are cartoon-ish, so eye-catching for preteens, but full of interesting facts for the bookworms and family encyclopedias.
3. The Pilgrims at Plymouth, by Lucille Recht Penner and S.D. Schindler
This atlas-style book is good for busy readers with multi-facted illustrations, interesting facts, and story on each page. My daughter has curled up with this one more than once to look at the maps, ship layouts, and bright pictures telling about individuals on the Mayflower. Great for advanced readers and also budding ones. There's plenty to talk about here.
4. Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas and Shannon Stirnweis
Another one that we can return to frequently, this book tells the story of Squanto's journey from enslaved Native American to providential interpreter and guide to the first settlers. It does come from a Christian perspective, so there's plenty of vocabulary about God's design. However, even if that isn't your framework, it's told plainly enough as a biography that anyone can enjoy--and be amazed-- at the significance of Squanto's life experiences culminating in saving the lives of so many. Interesting enough for the pre-teen crowd, but engaging for littles.
5. Thank you, Sarah! The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, by Laurie Halse Anderson and Matt Faulkner
This was our big find this year. My husband and I have enjoyed this whip-smart little book, and the kids keep asking for it, too. It tells about Sarah Hale, the "polite little lady" who saved Thanksgiving as a holiday through her relentless writing campaign over 35 years. Get inspired as you learn about this mom, educator, writer, and activist who ultimately beseeched President Lincoln to honor Thanksgiving as a unifying act for a nation torn apart by the Civil War. Talk about a conversation starter over the dinner table!
6. Bearenstain Bears Thanksgiving Stories and others, by Mike, Stan and Jan Bearenstain
We're in a season of life where things are little easier if the Bearenstain Bears are with us. Besides teaching my daughter how to read, these simple books are doing a lot to help both my kids think about kindness, gratitude, and family life. We adore the sweet, good-natured tales in their Thanksgiving Stories book where Brother and Sister reenact the Mayflower journey and learn about the unique freedoms Americans enjoy. We've also picked up Love is Kind and Too Much Stuff this month as a way to guide our conversations about treating each other well, and yes, taking care of (or cleaning out and giving away!) our abundance of "stuff."
7. Strega Nona's Harvest, by Tomi DePaola
If you have children 8 and under and have yet to discover DePaola, put that on your holiday list. His knack for captivating folk stories, saint's lives, and fairy tales in whimsical, yet look-again worthy art, is amazing (he's a legend for a reason!). Strega Nona's Harvest is a fun and silly story about a magical witch and her tidy garden that produces beautiful fruits and vegetables for the fall and winter. But the harvest gets a little nutty when her helper, Big Anthony, decides to plant a secret garden of his own! Keep the kids giggling with this fun fall tale, and share a chat about generosity and sharing afterwards, too.
What are some of your family's favorite books on Thanksgiving and gratitude? Share in the comments!
Laura Beth Payne is a writer and homeschool mama who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two bouncy kiddos. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram. Not on social media? Never miss a Murfreesboro Mama by signing up for the Murfreesboro Voice email on the "Newsletter" link.