Guarantee family snuggles galore this December with our Complete Guide To Making A Book Advent Calendar for all ages!

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Three children reading together by Christmas Tree - book advent calendar

Book advent calendars have become increasingly popular in recent years.  And it’s hardly surprising given the huge array of fabulous festive reads now available for little ones.  So why not join the party and prepare for a month of cuddles on the sofa or in bed as you introduce your children to the wonderful world of Christmas literature.

Read on to learn about the concept of the book advent calendar, the full lowdown on how to create one, ideas for everyone from babies to tweens, and top tips on designing a book advent calendar without breaking the bank!

Plus we’ll share some of our favourite books to get you started on building your own advent reading adventure!

What Is A Book Advent Calendar?

Quite simply it is 24 books, one to read each day of the Christmas countdown.

It’s the perfect way to fill December with magic and wonder, get seriously excited about Christmas and encourage your child’s reading too.  Even the most reluctant of readers will often be more willing to try if the stories involve inside knowledge about Santa and happenings at the North Pole.

And a month of guaranteed snuggles and family time sounds great to us!

Book Advent Calendar Along Sideboard

Images online often show 24 books beautifully wrapped and labelled, ready to be opened each day.  And whilst we absolutely adore that approach, we’ve got some other suggestions too in case you don’t have the time or home library to do things that way.  Or indeed you know your little one won’t have the patience to wait to unwrap the next story!

And for those older children, where twenty-four chapter books is probably rather an ambitious target(!), we’ve got some ideas too!

Spread Joy With A Kindness Calendar

Why not reverse things this December and sprinkle some Christmas cheer in your local neighbourhood with a kindness advent calendar!  

How To Make A Book Advent Calendar

As with all things advent, there is no one-size-fits-all approach!  Just do what works for your household and you’ll create magical December memories.

We’ve gathered together some ideas below and hope that these help you create a wonderful book advent calendar adventure for your family.

We’ve also created a free printable Book Advent Calendar pdf so you can keep track of which book is for which day.

How To Display The Books

First thing’s first.  Do you want to display them all together as a complete calendar of 24 books?  Or would you prefer to just give one book each day?

1. Complete Book Advent Calendar Display Ideas

There is definite wow factor doing things this way.  Here are a few of ideas for how.

Books Wrapped In Tissue Paper

You can wrap all the books in matching paper, or perhaps a selection of complimentary papers.  Add labels with the advent numbers or leave as a surprise each day.

It looks lovely to leave a few books unwrapped too, perhaps the classic Christmas stories.

As A Christmas Tree

Stack them in size order (largest to smallest) to create a Christmas tree.

Book Advent Calendar Christmas Tree

Line Them Up

Spread the books along the sideboard or on a shelf.  Dot with fairy lights to make it extra inviting!

Lucky Dip

Or simply pop them all in a box and play lucky dip each day!  (Although we do strongly recommend saving The Night Before Christmas for Christmas Eve!)

Book Advent Calendar in a basket

2. Daily Book Treats

Gorgeous as the full displays above can be, they do mean that all 24 books have to be in situ by the beginning of the month.  And you need to be sure your little one will have the patience to wait a whole day before opening the next story!

So, you may like to consider putting one book out each day instead. 

Three children reading together in Santa hats - book advent calendar

Under The Tree

You could leave it under the Christmas tree, on the breakfast table, by your child’s bed or next to the fireplace (if you have one).

Elf Delivery

Or maybe your elf delivers the books each day?

Treasure Hunt

If you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic you could even create a daily treasure hunt clue to find the whereabouts of the book!

Reusable Wrapping

Instead of wrapping each with paper, why not purchase a special piece of Christmas fabric or Furoshiki-style wrap and reuse this each day?

We absolutely love this idea from The Ladybirds’ Adventures as not only is it more environmentally friendly but the fabric wrapper itself will become treasured over the years as your little one seeks out the familiar material each morning.

Book Advent Calendar In Fabric Wrap

Don’t Forget!

If you decide to go for the daily gift option, just like with Elfie, be sure to set yourself a night-time reminder to minimise the chance of morning tears (for your child or you!!).

And do make use of our free printable book advent calendar diary below to keep track of which book is for which day.

One Last Thought on Presentation

We love the idea of having a dedicated basket or box set aside in which to collect all the Christmas books so that they can be taken out and enjoyed again and again over the December days.

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Ideas For Gathering The Books

24 books is a lot!  There’s no two ways about it.

You may of course be able to enjoy picking them out all in one go, or seeing if relatives might like to give an early Christmas present of a book that first year to help build the initial calendar.

But there are plenty of other approaches to consider too.  We share eight of our favourites below.

Books in semi-circle on Christmas background

1. Ask For Book Gifts In Early Years

Take advantage of those very early years (when little ones prefer the boxes to the gifts!) to ask friends and family for books ready for when they are older. 

Not just Christmas books of course – this is a perfect opportunity to build a library of classics for the future. 

However if you can add a few festive options into the mix, you’ll quickly build the foundation of a book advent calendar. 

Then you’ll just be looking at adding a handful of new stories each year as you pass along the ones that are definitely too young now.  And that makes the whole process far more manageable!

2. Make Use Of Your Local Library

The library is the perfect partner for a book advent calendar!

Just a word of caution: Christmas books tend to be extremely popular (unsurprisingly!) so plan early for this approach!

Young Girl in Library

3. Book Swap With Friends

Take advantage of your local network and plan a book advent calendar with friends. 

Split the advent days up into sections (say 6-day chunks for four families) and rotate a set of books at the nursery / school gates to pass them along to the next family at the end of each section. 

4. Reuse!

You’ll likely be finding yourself re-reading several of the books from earlier in the month anyway so why not just embrace this and reuse books from early December later down the line. 

This option is particularly useful for the tinies who really won’t mind at all!

5. Investigate Charity Shops & Car Boot Sales

Particularly in January and on the run up to Christmas, there can be some superb Christmas book finds at school fairs and church book stalls.

Be on the look out throughout the year for books to top up your collection.

6. Spot The Deals

Stores such as The Works will often have very reasonably priced boxsets of Christmas stories perfect for getting you started on a book advent calendar. So keep your eyes peeled, particularly in the post-Christmas sales ready for next year!

Wrapping Books For A Book Advent Calendar

7. Change The Countdown Length

Who says you have to start on December 1st?

Why not embrace a variation on the 12 days of Christmas or countdown from 10.  Your little one is sure to love whatever number of stories you can share so don’t put undue pressure on yourself to prepare the full twenty-four. 

8. Mix It Up

Why not create a calendar that mixes books with jokes, poems and short stories from online and even a few chocolate treats.

That way you can spread out the books and make them last longer.  A perfect approach for older children with chapter books too!

300+ Advent Calendar Filler Ideas

With ideas for everyone, every age and every budget – from homemade to activity ideas and daily treats, we’ll have your advent wrapped up in no time!

Book Advent Calendar Ideas For Older Children

When it comes to older readers, where nights are counted in chapters rather than books, you might need to be a little more inventive to create a Book Advent Calendar.

Here are some suggestions:

Celebrate The Weekends

Why not give a new book each weekend rather than each day?  That way you can pick four fabulous books for your child, tween or teen to enjoy over the week, either on their own or still read together. 

If you opt for this approach, you could quite simply just gift four beautiful book treats. 

But if you’re looking to give something everyday:

– share handwritten jokes, quotes, memes

– put out a little something to enjoy whilst reading each day.  A hot chocolate sachet, clementine or mince pie for example.  You could even add some Christmas PJs or a hot water bottle on a couple of days for extra special treats.

Teenage Girl Reading At Christmas

Include Books As Part Of A More General Advent Calendar

Of course you don’t need to create an advent calendar just around books.

You could add a handful of books, scattered throughout a homemade advent calendar which embraces all sorts of hobbies and interests.

Restock The Shelves For The Year

A book advent calendar could be a perfect way to replenish your young person’s bookshelf for the year ahead. 

Why not ask family and friends if they might be willing to help you with an early book gift for Christmas? 

Intersperse a handful of festive reads amongst the selection and set your child up for their next year of reading.  A fabulous gift that can savoured in the opening throughout December and enjoyed all year long too!      

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How To Choose The Books

Oh the most exciting part!

Introducing your child to the world of literature is surely one of the best pleasures of being a parent?!

And with so many fantastic children’s Christmas books available now, you’ll be wishing you started the calendar in October! 

The Night Before Christmas

For us, the only essential item is The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore for Christmas Eve.

We don’t care how old you are; you’re never too old for The Night Before Christmas read aloud by someone you love just before bedtime on the most magical night of the year!

Whilst it is of course wonderful to invest in a beautifully illustrated copy to enjoy year on year, we’ve prepared a printable version below for you to use as well.

'Twas The Night Before Christmas Printable

The Night Before Christmas


If you want to expand beyond just Christmas related books, then consider adding some winter or snow themed titles in too.  These will be fun to continue reading in January as well.  

If you’re religious, do of course intersperse books about the Nativity with those of tales from the North Pole. 

And there’s no reason to stick just to festive-themed reads.  You could easily add a few more general books into the mix, particularly for older children whose longer chapter books will likely keep them busy beyond December anyway. 

We love the idea of adding a couple more general books on kindness and good deeds too – perfect for reminding children about the importance of community spirit, especially at this time of year.  And for older children, joke, puzzle and non-fiction books are great options too.

Favourite Festive Reads

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Keeping Track

In true Jolly Festive style we’ve created a free printable book advent calendar diary just for you!

Perfect for keeping track of which book is for which day.  Scroll down to download your copy.

Book Advent Calendar Diary

Book Advent Calendar Diary

Our Book Suggestions

We have pulled together a selection of book advent calendar suggestions to get you started.

We’ve created lists for babies & tinies, toddlers & pre-schoolers, young children & one for older children too.  Click on the details below to find out more. 

They are by no means exhaustive lists and we really struggled to choose our favourites as there are so many fabulous options.

However we hope that these lists will give you a starting point.  For more details about each of the books, click the images below and please do let us know in the comments what other books you enjoy with your children in the Christmas countdown – we are always on the look out for new festive reads!

We do hope that you’ve found this Book Advent Calendar Guide helpful.  Please do let us know in the comments below and share any other ideas you’ve tried or seen!

Share Your Adventure!

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @jollyfestive. And be sure to tag #jollyfestive in your photos.  We love to see which Christmas activities you’ve been enjoying!

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