“Please read me a story.” The bedtime story is, hands down, the best ritual you and your child can ever share. You build a lifelong love for reading. You teach vocabulary, memory and listening skills.
And—as you cuddle under the covers, your voice reciting the familiar lines of a favorite book—you enter a private, intimate moment that he will remember long after he’s outgrown Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton. He feels safe. He feels happy. He feels loved.
Here are some wonderful bedtime stories that you can read to your child tonight. Some are classics, others are relatively new releases that have won raves from literary circles (and the toughest critics of all: restless kids!)
1. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak
All kids have their “monster moments,” which is probably why generations have instantly connected to misbehaving Max. After a day of driving his mother crazy, he gets sent to bed and then sails off on a magical boat to “where the wild things are.”
The rhymes are fun, the pictures are whimsical, and the ending is comforting. Bad little Max misses his Mommy, and returns home—to find a hot bowl of soup waiting for him. Being wild is fun, but being loved is even better.
2. “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” By Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
This book is excellent for toddlers, who learn words and colors as rhymes describe the photo in the next page. Over time, your child will recite along with you—first from memory, then by associating the letters with the words. He’s learning how to read!
But even without the educational value, the book deserves its place in every child’s library. Eric Carle’s illustrations are gorgeous, and the simple rhymes read like poetry.
3. “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
You probably remember this from your childhood, and will enjoy passing on this favorite to your child. The words—as simple as they may be—have an incredibly soothing quality, as you say goodnight to everything in the room.
4. “The Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton
You and your child will love Boynton’s charming illustrations (anteaters never looked this cute!) and the silly rhymes that mirror his own bedtime rituals: exercise, washing up, brushing teeth. By the time you get to the ending—“The moon is high/The sea is deep/They rock/and rock/and rock/to sleep”–your little one may be nodding off, too.
5. “How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
The remarkable illustrations (realistic yet whimsical!) and the witty rhymes make this book (and the others in the “How do Dinosaurs…” series) one of our favorites.
You’ll both laugh at how much your child has in common with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or have fun imagining how to squeeze a Stegorous into his tiny bed. But the humor has a purpose. At the end of the book, the dinosaurs demonstrate “proper” bedtime behavior, proving that even prehistoric creatures have manners.
6. “Skippyjon Jones” by Judy Scachner
This is a hilarious book with a lovable kitten heroine and catchy verses. Here, he pretends he’s a Chihuahua called “Skippito Friskito” battling the “bad bumble-beeto.” Skippyjon Jones became so popular that the author created several other titles. Don’t be surprised if your child asks for the entire set—those rhymes are addicting!
7. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss
This book needs no introduction. The silly verses and the iconic illustrations have charmed millions of children and parents all over the world. Educators say the repetitive sounds are perfect for teaching phonetics, but that’s just a bonus. For most of us, “The Cat in the Hat” (and the sequel, “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back”) is a rollicking, frolicking read.
8. “I Love You, Stinky Face” by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore
“But Mama, but Mama, what if I were a super smelly skunk, and I smelled so bad that my name was Stinky Face?” says the character in this book. The images appeal to your kid’s sense of humor—meat eating dinosaurs, slimy swamp creatures—but the message strikes a deep chord: he will be loved no matter what.
9. “Guess How Much I Love You” By Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
This charming book, with its soft illustrations and rhythmic verses, centers around a little bunny saying “I love you” to his parent. Each time, he is told that no matter what, he is loved in return—and much, much more than he would ever know.
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