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This Winter Recess, help your family discover just how fun it can be to learn outside the classroom!

Matilda reading a stack of books on her own.

As we all know, beginning December 26, 2022, through January 2, 2023, all NYC public schools will be closed for Winter Recess. And while many of us will surely be grateful for the time off from the school year to spend time with loved ones, we also know that many families are also seeking ways to provide great learning and family experiences for their children.

It is in this spirit that we are sharing a few of our favorite books for the holidays for students in grades 3-K through 12, as well as details about some of our favorite family-friendly events happening across the City throughout the break. Check out our suggestions, and let us know all about your favorites in the comments section below!


Upcoming Events During Winter Recess

Visit a Local Library for Holiday Fun

No matter which borough you’re in, NYC’s public libraries will be open throughout Winter Recess for great reads and family fun! From story times and arts and crafts projects, to movie nights, there’s bound to be something fun for kids of all ages to enjoy at our libraries!

Visit the New York Public Library (NYPL), the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), or the Queens Public Library’s (QPL) event webpages to learn more about all the events that are scheduled for families throughout Winter Recess!

Celebrate the Lighting of Brooklyn’s Largest Menorah

Grand Army Plaza
Prospect Park—Brooklyn

Sunday, December 18—Sunday, December 25

Celebrate Hanukkah with live music and latkes every night at Brooklyn’s largest menorah lighting. The festivities begin at different times each night, so be sure to check the full schedule on the NYC Parks Department webpage.

Kwanzaa Festival of Lights Celebration

Outside of the Carmine Carro Community Center
Marine Park—Brooklyn

Wednesday, December 28, 5:00 p.m.

Celebrate African values and the seven principles of Kwanzaa in this free outdoor event for families. During the event, participating families will be able to light a kinara, or a candle holder for seven candles.

Learn more from the Marine Park Alliance’s webpage.

Kids Week NYC

At NYC Parks across the City

Monday, December 26—Friday, December 30

School might be out, but NYC Parks’ natural classrooms are still open! From arts and crafts, to birding, wildlife hikes, and many more in between, NYC Parks across the five boroughs are offering a range of events for kids ages 12 and under that will give them opportunities to experience nature in hands-on and fun ways!

To find a Kids Week event near you, visit NYC Parks’ Kids Week with the Urban Park Rangers page.

Spend Winter Recess at Prospect Park

Audubon Center
Prospect Park—Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, December 27—Friday, December 30

Join the Prospect Park Alliance for nature-based, family-friendly activities being held every day from 12/27–12/30. From nature walks and bird watching to water sample testing, participating families can look forward to creating memories that the little ones will remember for a lifetime!

Learn more from the Prospect Park Alliance’s “Winter Recess in Prospect Park” webpage.

Light Up Your Recess at the Luminaries Exhibition

Brookfield Place
230 Vesey Street—Manhattan

Open through Sunday, January 1, 2023.

Luminaries is an interactive and free outdoor exhibition that features a mesmerizing display of 640 motion-activated, twinkling lanterns that change in color and intensity over time. Visitors will be able to send motion-activated holiday wishes and “conduct” the glowing lanterns by waving their hands, maestro-style!

Also, at the top of every hour, from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. until January 1, 2023, attendees will be able to view a special light show featuring one of four holiday songs. Visit Brookfield Place’s Luminaries webpage to learn more about this exhibition.

A close up of a young boy lighting candles on a menorah

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Pexels.

Booklists for Young Readers

Whether you want to get caught up on the classics, or bundle up with a brand-new release, Winter Recess is a great time for families to read together. No matter your preference, the following list has you and the little ones covered with plenty of stories about friends, family, and festive fun for kids of all ages!

Many of these books, including audiobook versions, are readily available at any of the City’s public libraries (NYPL, BPL, and QPL), as well as through our very own Citywide Digital Library on Sora, which is free for City public school students.

Early Readers (Pre-K–Grade 2)

  • Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff; art by Felicia Bond
  • Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat by Namoi Howland
  • My Footprints by Bao Phi; art by Basia Tran
  • The People Remember by Ibi Zoboi; art by Loveis Wise

Elementary Grades (Grades 3–5)

  • Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale by Gloria Koster; art by Sue Eastland
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow; art by James E. Ransome
  • The Seven Days of Kwanzaa by Angela Shelf Medearis
  • The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos by Lucia M. Gonzalez; art by Lulu Delacre

Middle Grades (Grades 6–8)

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Greenglass House by Kate Milford; art by Jaime Zollars
  • Like a Maccabee by Barbara Bietz
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

High School (Grades 9–12)

  • After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
  • The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
  • The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork
  • The Resolutions by Mia Garcia
  • Whiteout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
Young girl sitting in an adult man's lap laughing while reading a book and sitting next to a Christmas tree

Photo by cottonbro studio. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Pexels.

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We hope that you and your family have a joyous and restful holiday season that is filled with happy memories to last a lifetime. On behalf of the NYC Department of Education, we wish you all a great Winter Break—see you back in school on January 3, 2023!


Banner photo by cottonbro studio. Used under Creative Commons license. Original can be found on Pixels.

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NYC Department of Education, 2019