Family Christmas traditions are important because, like other family traditions, they help to bring some predictability to your child's world, making him feel safe and secure.
The sense of 'this is what our family does at Christmas time' can be a very reassuring thing for a young child for whom the world is, a lot of the time, a very confusing place.
If reading is important to you and you're keen to encourage your children to enjoy reading, here are two small but meaningful and fun traditions you can easily incorporate into your family's preparations for Christmas.
Creating a special Christmas book collection for your kids doesn’t have to be an expensive or difficult exercise.
Keep it simple, especially if your children are very young, by buying just one or two inexpensive books and then adding a new book every year.
The first Christmas book I bought for my sons' first Christmas in 1995 was a Little Golden Book edition of The Night Before Christmas I found at the supermarket.
The boys were about eight months old when I bought it and I think it cost me about $3.00. Sure, it doesn't have the gorgeous illustrations that some of the more expensive books have but, on the other hand, I didn't mind when the boys wanted to chew it while I read!
Once you've bought the books, you'll need to find a place to store and display them so they're close at hand.
This can be a bookshelf or even - if you or your partner are handy - some specially built display shelves like the gorgeous ones in this photo.
This idea that works well is to find a pretty basket and add a Christmassy bow or a box and cover it with Christmas paper. Put the books away somewhere safe for the rest of the year and make getting them out every Christmas on a particular day a family tradition.
You could, for example, get them out on the day you decorate your Christmas tree or on 1 December. Whatever you decide, make getting the Christmas books out a special part of your family's preparations.
It's a good idea to put your Christmas book basket in your living area, perhaps close to the Christmas tree. Make sure it's on show and that there's somewhere comfortable to read close by. A few cushions on a rug are ideal.
Of course, sit down and read some of the books with your children but also encourage them to sit and read by themselves sometimes. Reading Christmas books is a great 'quiet time' activity for little ones.
Maybe you can make it a 'rule' that adults who visit are asked - politely! - to read one of the books to the children of the house.
I guess this tradition is pretty self-explanatory. Get hold of a copy of Clement C Moore's poem The Night Before Christmas and arrange a time for your family to sit down together and listen while someone reads it.
You can print out a free copy of the poem here but do try and buy a copy of it in book form if you can.
There are so many beautifully illustrated books available and looking at the pictures are a big part of the experience of reading the story together, especially for the youngest family members.
1. Think about where and when you'll read the poem.
This is important because you'll want to try and be consistent from year to year. Family Christmas traditions work best if kids know what to expect so work out what will suit your family best and try to do it the same way every year.
The traditional time to read 'twas the Night Before Christmas is at bedtime on Christmas Eve. This works very well if your children are small but you can certainly vary the timing is to suit your family. Immediately after dinner on Christmas Eve is another time that works well.
So where will you read? On the sofa in the living room? On Mum and Dad's bed? In the kids' bedroom? On the floor in front of the fire? Again, think about what's likely to work best for your family and try to do it the same way every Christmas.
2. Who will read?
Mum or Dad is the usual choice but, as your children get older, they may like to take it in turns to read. If Grandma or Pop are visiting, they may like to take a turn. Whatever you decide, remember to snuggle up together and to make it a special occasion.
Whoever reads should read slowly so everyone can savour the rhythm of the language and the pictures the words conjure up in our minds as we listen.
From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!