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The Top 7 Books You Should Read to Your Kid at Bedtime

Katya Bowd

Posted on June 23 2017

Books have such a beautiful way of becoming part of the reader – especially for children. And never are kids so primed for stories as they are before bed! This delightful bedtime tradition of reading stories together is a critical part of the developing imaginations and vocabularies of children, even the ones who have not yet learned to speak. Stories can help older kids digest their day before it comes to an end and set them up for happy dreams. Tips for parenting are often scattered through the pages as characters interact with their children.  Parents may even find bedtime tales helpful for starting constructive conversations about life lessons, ones that can be difficult to verbalize about questions that come up in the early years. How can I be brave when I’m away from my mother? Why can’t I just do what I want whenever I want? Why are there so many rules? Give your child stories to which they can relate, and you will find their mind open to discussions that help them navigate abstract ideas.

Most importantly, books are the building blocks of helping your child learn to express themselves. Even before they are verbal, children have the capacity to understand so much. Reading aloud and engaging them with your words sets the stage for giving them the tools they need for sharing their own thoughts and ideas. The following list of delightful selections for bedtime stories is sorted by the age-group for which they are most appropriate, starting with the infants and toddlers and moving up to those in primary school and beyond.

“The Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss

When bedtime approaches, your kids will be thrilled by this rhythmic, whimsical work. As an educational resource, “The Foot Book” is excellent for teaching very small children how fun it can be learning to read. A tip for parents who are new to the bedtime story routine is to not only read aloud but teach them to follow along and point to the words as you read. This visual trigger does so much for their comprehension! Don’t be surprised if they start “reading along” with you as the illustrations and rhymes help them identify words by sight over time.

“Are You My Mother?” by P. D. Eastman

The classic story of a baby bird searching for his mother features a silly sequence of encounters that children will enjoy hearing over and over again. Another wonderful book for very young listeners, this will be an excellent stepping-stone toward sight reading with helpful repetition and sequential progression through the story. The abstract concepts of identity and belonging are beautifully portrayed, making this a Parenting 101 must-have.

“The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn

This sweet, masterfully made bedtime story describes the connections mothers can have with their children, even when they are not physically together. When your child is getting ready for their first time with a babysitter, going to school, or any other adventure that means time away from you, the Kissing Hand will provide a tradition to remember for times when you have to be apart, one that will bring cherished memories for years to come.

“What If Everybody Did That?” by Ellen Javernick

A boy learns through a series of inconsiderate choices about what happens when we fail to think before we act. Just a tip for parents who have yet to experience the early school years – at times your kids will have an easier time taking instruction from just about everyone except you. This book can be a lifesaver! As you read example after example of what can result from thoughtless actions (and examples of better alternatives), your child can develop a better understanding of the importance of etiquette and take responsibility for their choices. It can help them realize the relationship between actions, consequences, and the impact each person can have on the world around them – positively or negatively.

“Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Henkes

In this playful tale that is full of imagination, Lilly the mouse has wonderful, exciting things to share with her classmates and her beloved teacher, Mr. Slinger. When she is gently reprimanded for disrupting her class, a good day becomes a very, very bad day for Lilly.

How can anything good happen after having had a bad day? Share this fun bedtime story about the possibilities of tomorrow when today has been tough. As Mr. Slinger tells Lily, “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” Kids can learn about the power of an apology when one person disappoints another and chooses to make it right.

“The Fire Cat” by Esther Averill

Ever worry that your child may be developing the tendency to be a bully? It’s normal for children to occasionally struggle with being kind and considerate. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be addressed. It is possible for such tendencies to lord size or strength over smaller children to be channelled into the desire to be their hero. “The Fire Cat” can be a fun way to engage your positive parenting skills and start the conversation with your child.

Pickles is a cat who seems to be a hopeless trouble-maker. Mrs. Goodkind, the neighbour who sees his potential to do great things, takes an interest in his welfare despite the fact that he is rough around the edges. With the help of a wise fire chief and his friendly fire crew, Pickles learns that contribution is the cure for boredom, that kindness is the stuff that makes heroes, and humble origins should not hold anyone back from reaching their potential to do great things.

Children love to see the transformation of Pickles from a bully to a brave Fire Cat. As Mrs. Goodkind offers compassion and direction to this “mixed-up cat,” your child can learn the power of choosing to make a positive impact on everyone.

“The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien

Amongst children who enjoy the reading of chapter books, few masterpieces can compare in popularity with this prequel story about Bilbo Baggins and the ragtag gang of dwarves who pull him into a hunt for treasure. For families who love reading epics together, “The Hobbit” is the perfect blend of adventure, poetry, mystery, and fantasy. Kids anticipate the adventures of well-crafted characters as the suspense grows with every turn of a page.

As a prequel, “The Hobbit” also opens the door to the reading of a series – as your kids grow older, they can follow the characters through other adventures in following series, “The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien uses beautiful language and constructs a vivid world of creatures and cultures that are absolutely spell-binding.


Don’t miss the opportunity to shape the personalities and imaginations of your kids as you prepare…
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Whether you have little ones who are still learning their letters or older children who are open to reading through something together as a family, these selections offer wonderful story time experiences that make beautiful memories. Take time to enjoy their reactions and ask them about whether or not they identify with the characters. It is especially enjoyable when older siblings begin to share their favourite books with the younger ones, either by actually reading or by pointing to the pictures and telling the story from memory. Don’t miss the opportunity to shape the personalities and imaginations of your kids as you prepare to send them off to dreamland!

What would make your Top 7 bedtime story list? We would love to hear about your favourite selections!