Reading to your kids at any time is one of the best things you can do for them…but there is something extra special about the bedtime reading ritual. It can be a great part of parent-baby bonding time and can also help a baby to relax and get ready for sleep – and setting up a baby with regular sleeping habits is a great gift to give them as they are growing up, as enough rest is essential for their growth and development.
These stories are some of the best for curling up at night with your little one.
The very act of saying “good night” can help to signal to some kids that it is time to relax and fall asleep. This act is made into a lovely ritual in this classic story from Margaret Wise Brown. The book has simple, calming illustrations and centers around a baby bunny tucked inside his green, green room, saying goodnight to all the things there (mittens, his toy house, the picture of the three bears on the wall) before he goes to sleep. The lilting cadences of the words and the soft colors of the palette are soothing to children, and generations of them (since the book was first published back in 1947) have enjoyed trying to find the tiny white mouse, which is cleverly hidden in the book’s illustrations. This is a sure bet for helping your little one getting to sleep.
Goodnight, Moon is available through Amazon.
Where the Wild Things Are
Almost every child, at one point in their lives, will fight tooth and nail against going to bed. It has been more than 40 years since Max, Maurice Sendak’s hero, is sent to bed without supper and declares, “Let the rumpus start!” Refusing to go to sleep, Max (in what is later revealed to be his dream) sails away over the seas in a boat to an island of monsters and becomes their king, leading them in their revels. Eventually, he is called back home again and winds up asleep in his bed. This children’s classic is so well-illustrated (by Sendak as well) that even the monsters on the island seem designed to soothe a child to sleep and it is one of the most acclaimed children’s books of all time. No childhood reading shelf is complete without it.
Where the Wild Things are is available through Amazon.
Llama Llama Red Pajama
For some kids, the idea of going to bed and being there in the darkness can be fraught with anxiety — and this anxiety can make sleep difficult or even scary. And this fear can be difficult for children to talk about or express. This story can help — with its strong, simple rhythms, it tells the story of an adorable baby llama – replete in his red pajamas – who is put in bed and becomes anxious for his mama, wondering in a panic what has happened to her. In the end, the mama llama comes to comfort her baby and all ends well. This quirky, humorous book, however, is a great way to soothe children and help them understand and process their anxieties about going to sleep.
Llama, Llama Red Pajama is available from Amazon.
Like Llama Llama Red Pajama, this book, too, deals with the anxiety young children can feel at night, particularly when they awake and are alone. Bill, Sarah and Percy are three delightful baby snowy owls who awake in the middle of the night to find that their mother is gone. In the dark woods, they become increasingly anxious about the noises and presence of other animals around them – and also increasingly anxious about their mother and when she will be back. When at last she does come home, there is much joyous flapping and hooting to greet her return. This beautiful story by Mark Waddell has equally stunning illustrations by Patrick Benson, largely done in black, white and green, which will have young children and their parents alike utterly captivated.
Owl Babies is available from Amazon.
Jack’s Relaxing Journey
Even at a young age, some children can find it difficult to relax, especially if they have had a stressful day. Learning how to let themselves let go of this stress becomes important – and is the focus of this brilliant book. “After a long and tiresome day, Jack was finally resting in his bed” is how this story, by Dan Lutkinson and Marta Ford begins. Jack’s journey takes place entirely in his mind, where he walks along a beach, up a rocky path and finally finds himself floating on a boat in the middle of the water…he gets more tired as the journey goes on, finally falling asleep before he can finish it. The illustrations in this book are warm and tropical but still relaxing and authors based this book on relaxation techniques, creative visualization, meditation and other techniques to help kids relax even at the end of a stressful day.
Jack’s Relaxing Journey is available from Amazon.
The Salamander Room
Being out in the nature can also have a soothing effect on children, and this connection with the natural world is explored in the Salamander Room. In this exquisitely illustrated book, a little boy finds a salamander in the woods and wants to take it home. His mother tries to explain to him all the things that he would need to do to alter his bedroom to truly make the salamander feel at home. As his mother explains this, the little boy imagines all the changes he would make, slowing transforming his bedroom into the forest itself. In the finally gorgeous picture, the boy sleeps in his bed in the middle of the forest under a clear and starry sky, with the salamander curled up beside him.
This book is available from Amazon.
Thirteen Moon’s on a Turtles Back
This incredibly beautiful book, is, like the Salamander Room, a good example of how the connection with nature can be so deep and important for children – and how it can soothe and lull them to sleep. It takes the reader through the thirteen “moons” of the year according to the tribe, native to what is now the Dakotas, who believed that the thirteen panels on the shell of a turtle represent the 13 moons that the earth must travel through during the year in order to complete its annual cycle. The exquisite illustrations each of the moons and the season each represents is one of the best parts of this book and is sure to captivate children and adults alike.
Thirteen Moons on a Turtle’s Back is available from Amazon.
In short, in the increasingly rich world of children’s literature, there is a wider variety of stories than even that make exquisite bedtime reading. From dealing with the anxieties that children can feel when they are put to sleep at night to helping them relax in their minds after a stressful day to a look at the adventures that children like Max have in their dreams, these stories are a great way to explore the mysterious, sometimes frightening, sometimes beautiful world of sleep.