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DIY Christmas Story Book Advent Calendar

Storybook Advent Calendar: Wrap up 24 Christmas story books, and let your children pick a new one each to read together at bedtime.
Storybook Advent Calendar: Wrap up 24 Christmas story books, and let your children pick a new one each to read together at bedtime.

This Christmas I made my girls a storybook advent calendar.  My youngest is 7, but since her older sister is 10, it feels like we’re quickly getting past the little kid stage.  In fact, there’s already very few toys on their Christmas lists this year.  

Since they’re both reading chapter books now, and usually read on their own at bedtime I thought it might be nice to do a special “Read me a Story Christmas Countdown” this year.

 I’ve wrapped up 24 books, so that each night between Dec. 1 and Christmas eve we can read a Christmas storybook together.

Any book lover will adore their own book advent calendar.  With older kids, it’s an opportunity for a special bedtime story again, at least for the month heading up to Christmas.  It’s such a fun way to spend time together during the holiday season.  I’m also a big fan of family activity advent calendars -find our printable advent activity cards here.  But, those kind of advent calendars can end up being a lot of work for parents.  This  idea is the easiest way to create a special advent activity together.  

This is such a great alternative to chocolate advent calendar, since we really don’t need to start each day with more sugar.  I also think it’s a better option than making your own advent calendar filled with small gifts.  They tend to be inexpensive little toys and trinkets that your child doesn’t need, and end up being donated, or worse still in landfill.  This Christmas season a DIY book advent calendar is sure to become one of your favorite Christmas traditions!

Storybook Advent Calendar

Christmas Books

The first task in making your own Christmas book advent calendar is to secure enough books.  You will need 24, since you don’t need for Christmas day.  When I was a young mom, I wasn’t too keen on buying Christmas books, since I thought something general had much more reading potential throughout the year.  Ten years later, I see the value in Christmas books, it does come around every year, and reading them together brings back memories of earlier days and much younger little ones.  

Mix of Old and New

For our countdown I used about half old Christmas books we already had, and bought about 12 new ones.  It was actually a really great idea to use a mix of old and new books.  The girls loved discovering the new books, but there was also a happy nostalgia in reading the old ones together, that we’ve read together so many times for past Christmases.

Thrift Store Books

For the new books, I picked them up over about a month at thrift stores, the dollar store, and a warehouse outlet, and didn’t pay more than a couple of dollars each for most of them.  It’s great if you can to plan ahead for this activity, since it might take a little while to collect enough Christmas books.  Most thrift stores put out their Christmas themed books right after Halloween, so that’s a great time to start shopping.  Finding the picture books at thrift stores is a great way to not spend too much for your story book Christmas advent calendar.

New Books

I also had good luck at the dollar store, and that’s a great option to find an inexpensive new Christmas book.

If you’re kids are younger, a board book level will be perfect.  If you’re kids are older you can use picture books.  And if you have a mix of ages then you can put together a collection of children’s books with something for everyone.  

If this becomes a new Christmas tradition for you and your family, be sure to take any old Christmas books that your kids have outgrown and no longer enjoy back to the thrift store and donate them so someone else can enjoy them.  If you do this year after year, I think it’s a nice idea to keep your favourites, and donate the others, and replace them with new-to-you second hand books for the new calendar.

Wrapping The Books

Part of the fun of this kind of advent calendar is not knowing which book you will get each night.  So be sure to wrap all the books up in wrapping paper, so that it can be a surprise each night.  It’s fun to use a few different kinds of wrapping paper for interest, but making sure they all coordinate together.

Number Tags or No Number Tags?

I really like the idea of reading them in no particular order.  So I just wrap them up, and let my girls take turns picking a different one each night to read.  If you prefer, you can number the books, so that you read a particular one each of the days of Christmas.  You can use number stickers to mark your order, or use a marker or acrylic paint to add the numbers to the wrapping paper.  Another options is numbered gift tags tied around each book.  You could even wrap them into large paper bags with a number on each one.  

Starting on December 1st, you let your family member find the wrapped book marked as number one, and enjoy it for your bedtime stories.  And if you’re letting them be picked randomly, you just let your little boy or girl pick out whatever one they want, unwrap it and enjoy it together.

Library Books

If you decide to use some library books, it would be a good idea to use the number tags, and make sure that they are read right at the beginning of the calendar so they can be returned to the local library on time for the other book lovers to enjoy as well.

Displaying The Books

I like to collect all the books together in one spot.  We placed ours under the Christmas tree in our living room, but in the kids bedroom can be a nice idea too.

We used a vintage suitcase for our books this year.  It’s the perfect way to collect them all together.  It’s so much fun to add some little Christmas decorations too, like candy canes, a banner, or pom pom garland, and twinkle Christmas lights, for a little Christmas magic.

Other great options are to stack the books on top of each other from biggest to smallest and make the stack in the shape of a Christmas tree.  We’ve also used a vintage crate, or special basket to hold them all in the past.

how to make a Storybook Advent Calendar

Yield: 1 Calendar

DIY Book Advent Calendar

DIY Book Advent Calendar
Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour


  • 24 Christmas Books
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Suitcase, basket, or box


    1. Collect 24 Christmas books from your home, at second hand stores, or the bookstore.
    2. Wrap them all up with wrapping paper. I wrapped them all in brown paper; it made me think of “brown paper packages tied up with strings…these are a few of my favourite things..”.
    3. To add to the magic factor, I used an old vintage suitcase, that looks like it could have been sent straight from the North Pole. A basket, or box would work too.

vintage suitcase

Vintage Suitcase

We used an old suitcase for our books.  It felt a little like we were taking a magical journey each night.   Our books transported us to lots of wonderful places.  I wrapped the books in brown paper, thinking of “brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favourite things”. I filled the suitcase up with some cotton and faux snow.  It helped add a little more magic.  

children's advent calendar idea

We had so much fun doing this together.  Picture us all snuggled up together in our big bed in our Christmas jammies with a bedtime story each night. They absolutely loved it.  It’s such a great way to spend some quality family time together, especially when the holidays seem to get more and more busy.  Being intentional about slowing down and spending some time together without rushing seems more and more important.  I love too that this an end of the day activity.  We can settle down together with our children’s Christmas books and do something we will all enjoy.  I think this might be a new holiday tradition for us.

With a “Read me a Story Christmas Countdown” DIY book advent calendar to enjoy,  life really is a party!

More Advent Inspiration

You might also like our House Advent Calendar here.

DIY House Advent Calendar: A pattern for 3 sizes of paper houses, and printable number labels to make your own advent village.

Also check out Activity Advent Calendar here.

Printable Christmas Advent Calendar Activities: with over 60 different activities to choose from pick 24 and make some special memories with your family this Christmas.

You might also like our DIY Advent Calendar here.

Tree Advent Calendar: IKEA hack, inexpensive cardboard advent calendar that's been silver leafed, and filled with printable activities.



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