Stacie Duce
Reading bedtime stories, especially holiday classics, is one of the best gifts a father can give to his children.

Second to loving his wife, the best thing a man can do for his children is to read to them at night. Although far from being perfect parents, my husband and I share that common goal, and it’s reaped sweet rewards.

He snuggles down in a mound of kids while I pick up toys and hang clean laundry; or he makes hot cocoa while I tackle a chapter. He embellishes every picture-book paragraph with additional adjectives or dialogue from characters who have the same names as our children. I, however, read each written word deliberately with the cadence and voice that I imagine the author intended.

Sometimes we never get to the last page because the “wild rumpus” sends kids flying off the bed or laughter turns to tears which turns to tickles over a silly imaginative tangent.

Christmastime is an adventurous book-reading season, and my mom traditionally provides an annual addition to our basket of bedtime books glittered in holiday-themed colors and tales.

Our family favorites are evident by the crumpled corners and ripped edges from toddlers trying to get a better look. Some pop-up pictures now flop and some are missing moving parts. My husband’s classic favorite that was read to him as a boy is held together with loose staples.

I hate to admit a more tragic truth, however, but we have some beautifully illustrated hardbound Christmas books that we’d rather toss into the crackling fire. Apparently, some bookmakers have no idea that adults actually read to their children and expect the text and storyline to be coherent. Since I’ve never been involved in the book publishing world, I have not a single idea how some story projects were fully funded and mass-distributed.

Stepping off that soapbox now, I leave you with a list of some of our favorite holiday stories:

• "Gingerbread Baby," by Jan Brett

• "Jolly Old Santa Claus," by Alice Leedy Mason and illustrated by George Hinke

• "Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect," by Richard H. Schneider and illustrated by Elizabeth J. Miles

• "The Christmas Humbugs," by Colleen Monroe and illustrated by her husband, Michael Glenn Monroe

• "The Legend of the Candy Cane," by Lori Walburg and illustrated by James Bernardin

Please suggest your favorite Christmas books in the comment section of this column.

And one final word of advice to the husbands and fathers of the world: Please drop everything for 15 minutes a night to read stories to your children (of all ages). It’s a gift your kids will devour with delight and will make your wife fall in love with you all over again, every time.

Stacie Lloyd Duce is a columnist and magazine editor featured regularly in several Montana and Utah publications. Her columns appear Thursdays on Email: