March 04


JOLABOKAFLOD: The Christmas Book Flood by Jody Fassett Kyburz

NPR teaches me a lot of new things if I’m not busy with an audiobook.  When I heard about Jolabokaflod just prior to Christmas 2015, I immediately began preparing to make it happen for 2016.


Jolabokaflod developed into a tradition thanks to the publishing industry in Iceland, a country with an extremely high rate of literacy.  Their book publishing takes place only toward the end of the year, therefore, people can’t wait to get their hands on all the new titles.  Icelandic folks give and receive a lot of books on Christmas Eve and then go to bed to read all night…with chocolate!


In January of last year I began shopping for titles.  I included my husband in budgeting for this new tradition, one that so perfectly matches my personality.  Big boxes of books sat in our spare bedroom over the summer months.  I also identified the levels of each title in order to reach the range of my readers.


In December I enjoyed wrapping each title in different paper while catching up on some television.  I placed the books (and chocolates!) in gift bags and transported them to school ten at a time.  I also included a letter explaining the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod to my students (and a group photo of our overnight field trip at an outdoor education camp).


What was the result?  Well, I recently explained to the class that I was going to write a guest post at Nerdy Book Club and was considering Jolabokaflod as my topic.  I also stated that if Jolabokaflod was a flop, I could always write about something else.  I asked them to keep their comments anonymous so they would feel free to share their true opinion.  Here’s a bit of what they said:


“I really loved having lots of books to read and choose from.  They were good books and plenty to keep me occupied.”


“The one I really liked was Frindle.  Because of that I read more than 29 minutes a day.  I finished it pretty fast.”


“I didn’t like it that much, but thank you for the chocolate, yummy.”


“I thought that the books were good.  I actually read Esperanza Rising and I really liked it.”


“I liked all the books and I want to read them, but I already have a list, so I’ll get to them later.”


“I liked it because you get to choose what you want to read.”


“I think it was annoying that we got all these books because now my mom wants me to read them.”


“Your books have earned themselves a spot on my bookshelf!”


“I will eventually read all of the books and I think this is really fun.”


“I would want you to do it next year to make your kids happy.”


“It was super fun to unwrap when I got home and I started to read one of the books.  If I had the money to buy books to do this, then I would, because books are amazing.”


“I have a lot of books that I haven’t read yet so I made a goal to read all those books in 2017.  I didn’t have a chance to read all the books I got before the year ended so I put those books in the pile too.  I have enjoyed Jolabokaflod.”


“I started Bridge to Terabithia and I think it is good.  I love the idea and I want to read all of them so bad.”


“The books are in my room.  I have not read any of them yet, but I am planning to read them after I finish some of the series I am already reading.”


“I honestly loved Jolabokaflod.  My sister and I opened Jolabokaflod together and three of them were ones my sister read in fifth grade and she said they were really good ones!  And one of them my fourth grade teacher read to us.  And I saw the movie.  I loved that book and movie!  I think Jolabokaflod is a great experience!”


And here’s one voluntary email from a parent:


“I just wanted to let you know how much my daughter loved Jolabokaflod. For starters, she couldn’t believe that a teacher would give her such a substantial gift. Secondly, she loves reading, so for her it is a true gift. And who doesn’t like chocolate?


At first I just thought it was a kind present from a kind teacher, but when I read the letter and understood the tradition, I thought it was fantastic! I am always on the lookout for great family holiday traditions, because I think traditions bond families with shared experience and memories. Neither my husband nor I come from a family with strong culture based traditions, and so I have had to try find and implement them into my own family. This one is tailor made for me! I can’t count the number of times I have stayed up all night to finish a book and eaten chocolate while doing so.


I have one enthusiastic reader, one reluctant reader, and two who are middle of the road. My hope is that by pairing the best time of the year and all of the warm, fuzzy feelings that accompany it, with books and chocolate, the children will all learn to love reading and be as enthusiastic about it.”


I will never give up trying to match my students to the book that will “show them the way.”  I realize that many of the titles will sit around for awhile, shoved under the bed, waiting to connect with a reader.  I’m willing to take that chance.

Jody Fassett Kyburz teaches 5th Grade in Lehi, Utah.  She blogs at  During summer vacations, she lives deep in Yellowstone National Park with her husband, a seasonal ranger.  A former National Park Ranger herself, she still volunteers by answering visitor questions at the front desk or babysitting bison at thermal features.  With no television, internet, or landline (and sometimes no electricity or hot water), she reads and hikes and reads some more, deciding which title will be the first read-aloud of the new school year.