It is hard to overestimate the importance of bedtime stories in our culture and the nightly ritual of reading with our children. As a child it was a special time I looked forward to, and as a parent it is a snuggly, calming way to end our busy days. The promise of story time motivates my preschooler to get into his pajamas and brush his teeth, and even my 1st grader, who is already reading on his own, still asks to read together at night.
In addition to this wonderful parent-child bonding, there are also crucial educational benefits to bedtime stories. Reading aloud together helps children learn the mechanics of how books work (there are words on a page, you read the words to make the story, the words tell you what is happening in the pictures, when your parent pauses it’s time to turn the page and read more, and so on). Children also learn new vocabulary and a more formal type of language than they might hear in everyday speech, as well as more poetic and beautiful (or silly and funny) ways of expressing themselves.
For my wiggly little guy, reading together at night is one of the only times he will sit still for stories! During the day it is go go go, but at night, he is winding down and so is ready to sit and really pay attention to a story. The act of reading together also helps him relax and get ready to go to sleep.
My little guy’s favorite book to read before bed is the appropriately named Good Night Book. It is a really cute book about the often silly ways imaginary creatures might say good night, like “Gloobit” and “Fleep Dreams!” What books do your kids like to read at night? And be sure to visit @mrskatiefitz for another #picturebookoftheday recommendation! #mkbkids #kbn #momsoninstagram #kidbloggersofig #kidlit
Even older children benefit from reading aloud together: My older son’s teacher was just telling me recently that many early readers can develop bad habits when they read to themselves, like skipping over words they don’t understand. Reading aloud with an adult or being read to helps them attend to every word on the page and can also help with pronunciation of words they may have only seen written. For us it also prompts a lot of discussions and questions about what we’re reading (of course, I’m sure part of this is my son trying to delay bedtime!)
Here are some of our favorite bedtime stories. What books does your family read together at night? Share in the comments!
I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Favorite Bedtime Stories
Monsters Go Night-Night is a silly book that is required reading in our household! I’ve read it so many times that my son and I both have it memorized. Readers are asked to guess how monsters get ready for bed – for example, do they take a bath with soap, shampoo, a rubber ducky, or chocolate pudding? The parent, of course, picks one of the reasonable choices, like soap, while the child picks the silly answer (especially if they have already read the book) – and of course, the silly answer is always the correct one! My son always laughs out loud at each question, saying, “I was right, and you were wrong!” (Because monsters take baths with chocolate pudding, didn’t you know?) Really cute, fun book that stands up to being read over and over and over again!
Another cute, not scary monster book to read at night is Go to Sleep, Monster!. This book plays off the classic scenario of a child being scared of a monster under the bed. When a boy’s older sister orders the monster to leave her brother alone and go to sleep, they discover that even monsters are afraid of other monsters. They set off on an odyssey to get to the root of the problem, first with the monster under the bed, then the one under the floor, then the one in the downstairs living room, until finally reaching the monster in the centermost center of the center of the Earth. And when they find out the surprising reason that he can’t sleep, they come up with a solution that makes everyone happy – and sleepy! One of our favorite bedtime stories.
The Hello Kitty Storybook Collection – which includes Hello Kitty Little Red Riding Hood and Hello Kitty The Little Mermaid – is just adorable. These are kid-friendly versions of the classic tales, sticking to the original stories as much as possible while making changes to make them more palatable for young children. For example, in Hello Kitty Little Red Riding Hood the grandmother doesn’t get tied up in the closet but instead decides to hide there when the Wolf sneaks in. Very cute series of fairy tales to share with your little ones.
For quite a long time The Goodnight Book was the must-read book at night for my three year old. It is a sweet, simple book about how imaginary creatures say good night to each other, like “gloobit” and “took a boo.” A gentle, sleepy book to read together at night. One of our all time favorite bedtime stories.
We can talk all we want about how sweet and snuggly it is to read bedtime stories together, but the truth is that often even after reading together some kids are just not ready to fall asleep. Some just have a harder time winding down or are naturally night owls, and all have those times where they just can’t seem to close their eyes. Enter The Little Elephant Who Wants to Fall Asleep: A New Way of Getting Children to Sleep, a true gift to tired parents (and kids!) everywhere. I was curious about the book, which purports to help children fall asleep and sleep more deeply, so I tested it out on my kids that same evening! My three year old fell asleep before I had reached the third page, and my very stubbornly awake 6 year old didn’t last much longer than that. Was it a fluke? I’ve used in many times since, always with positive results. We haven’t made it to the end of the book yet, even one night when they were both particularly wound up after a party. In fact, my 6 year old now asks for me to read him the book because he knows it will help him fall asleep.
What is the secret? It is a well-tested method (first seen in The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep) of reading a very gentle story with lots of repetition and sleepy images, with certain phrases (like “go to sleep now” and “Relax”) marked to be read with emphasis and other passages to be said in a slow, sing-song voice. There are even cues of when to yawn! I felt awkward the first time I started reading it (surely this won’t work on my kids), but now I’m a believer! It is really most like a guided meditation for kids, as the Little Elephant and her sleepy friends teach kids how to relax their bodies and minds and fall gently to sleep.
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