I line three throw pillows up on our bed each evening. Each of the brown ones are for me and Marc. The blue, brown, and cream patterned pillow is for Isabelle. It sits in the center of the brown ones. Once she’s finished brushing her teeth, she arrives in our room, picks out some bedtime books, and settles into our bed for story time.
Isabelle selects bedtime stories the way I pick out what to eat for breakfast. Just as I eat the same meal day after day ’til I get sick of it, she has us read the same book night after night after night until she moves on to something new. While we’ll try to slip other books into the mix each night, she seems to have one book in particular that she MUST hear every night until she’s tired of it. Sometimes she’ll cycle back to a beloved bedtime book at nap time, while sometimes we have to reintroduce a book at bedtime.
Here are ten favorite stories, from our house, perfect for lulling a child off to dreamland and/or for reminding them they are loved.
- A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na (Knopf, 2011) — A perfect book for helping children understand that all living things sleep, though they might do it differently. Some animals sleep standing up, some huddle together, and some sleep with one eye opened. Regardless, everyone sleeps (and implicit reminder that said child must turn-in after the book is read) — even the owl who watches over everyone in the book, but sleeps during the daytime.
- Gifting opportunity: Great for a first or second birthday.
- Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2006) — I used to read this book to Isabelle when she was in the bedtime avoidance stage. I thought it was a comical way to shed some light on the issue since the pigeon in the book uses a variety of stall tactics to avoid his inevitable bedtime. The final page shows the pigeon, fast asleep with Knuffle Bunny, dreaming of hot dogs, which is a great way to talk about the wonderful things that await us in dreamland.
- Gifting opportunity: Mo Willems book lovers and/or kids who don’t want to turn-in at night.
- Good Night, laila tov written by Laurel Snyder illustrated by Jui Ishida (Random House, 2012) — This is Isabelle’s present favorite for bedtime reading. It’s the story of a family who journey to the oceanside for a vacation. They’re an environmentally conscious family who can be seen planting trees, pitching a tent, picking berries, and living in other eco-friendly ways. This lyrical picture book has a refrain, “good night, laila tov,” every few pages. As a result, I think laila tov might be one of the first phrases Isabelle masters since she’ll have heard it again and again in this beautiful picture book.
- Gifting opportunity: Buy for an environmentally conscious/”green” family!
- Good Night, Sleep Tight written by Mem Fox illustrated by Judy Horacek (Orchard Books, 2012) — Bonnie and Ben’s favorite babysitter, Skinny Doug, is watching the duo one night. He tells them popular nursery rhymes (e.g., Pat-a-Cake, This Little Piggy, & Star Light Star Bright) at bedtime. They love his nursery rhymes so much that he keeps telling them new ones until it’s way past their bedtime. The book ends with Skinny Doug tucking them into bed and then falling fast asleep himself.
- Gifting opportunity: Buy this for any child who enjoys nursery rhymes.
- On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2005) — I purchased this book long before Isabelle was born. I’ve read it to her so many times since I brought her home from the hospital so I can engrain in her how unique and special she is. This book helps young readers understand there has never been and never will be anyone else like them in the whole world. I think this is a book we’ll revisit again and again as she gets older since it’s a great reminder of how special each person is and how everyone has a special place in this world.
- Gifting opportunity: Give this book to an expectant parent as a baby shower present.
- Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, 2013) — I had no doubt, when I received the review copy of this book, that it would soar to the top of The New York Times Bestseller List. And it did. With lyrical verses, carefully selected words, and gorgeous illustrations, it’s a book that appeals to all of the senses. Plus, with monkeys filling boxcars and elephants spurting paint into tanker cars, Steam Train, Dream Train also fosters a sense of wonder.
- Gifting opportunity: For any train-loving child.
- Sweet Dreams Lullaby by Betsy Snyder (Random House, 2010) — For 100+ days, this was the only book we could read to Isabelle to get her to bed without crying! I’ve posted so much about it (Click here to view all Sweet Dreams Lullaby/Betsy Snyder is my hero posts.), so I won’t sing it’s praises endlessly in this post. Even though this isn’t Isabelle’s go-to book of the moment, she still loves the bunny in the story and enjoys filling in words she knows.
- Gifting opportunity: Buy this as a first or second birthday present.
- Tell Me the Day Backwards written by Albert Lamb illustrated by David McPhail (Candlewick, 2011) — Timmy Bear wants to “play that game we used to play last summer” when Mama bear tucks him into bed. Together, the two of them relive the day that is ending by talking about the things that happened in reverse order. The most important pieces of the day include a reminder from Mama Bear not to touch things, like dusty old beehives, without consent, and thinking about the hibernation the bear family just woke up from that morning. Sometimes my husband, Isabelle, and I tell our day backwards using this book as inspiration.
- Gifting opportunity: Any child who loves bears or needs practice with sequencing.
- The Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2011) — This book serves as a reminder of the unique gifts each of us brings to the world. This book tells of the crown s/he wears, which tells the world s/he is magnificent, was born to shine, and to believe in him/herself. The second-to-last page of the book includes a note from the child’s crown, which says, “I’m made out of magic most people can’t see/(which is really quite clever, if you should ask me)./But if ever you’re worried and really must know,/you can tell that I’m there by the warmth of my glow./Press your hand to the top of your head./Feel me? Okay. Put your worries to bed.” And finally, as with other the other Tillman books we read and love in our family, this one ends with the words “you are loved.” What an important message to send to a child again and again and again.
- Gifting opportunity: A holiday or birthday gift for any child two and up.
- Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel and Friends, 2010) — The book begins with the following stanza, “I wanted you more/than you ever will know,/so I sent love to follow/wherever you go.” I couldn’t have captured that sentiment better if I wrote it myself, which is why — yet again — I love Tillman’s books. Young readers learn that even though they cannot see their love from their parents, it’s always with them wherever they travel and no matter how old they get. My favorite page, which always gets me verklempt, reads: “And if someday you’re lonely,/or someday you’re sad,or you strike out at baseball,/or think you’ve been bad…/just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair./That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.” I can’t think of a better message I can give to my daughter about love.
- Gifting opportunity: I love buying this book for friends who have had a new baby to give to their older child(ren) since it’s a great bonding book!
Have you read any of these books? If not, which ones sound appealing to you?
Also, can you recommend some other bedtime books we can add to our collection?