The fact that these (younger) moms weren’t familiar with this title made me wonder what other classics they’d missed along the way. Hence, this list of our most beloved bedtime stories. There are lots of others out there, to be sure, but these are the books my kids request again and again.
Of course, just one book before bed is never enough, so I’m including seven of our family favorites to read next time you tuck in. That’s enough to enjoy a different story every night of the week. Or just go ahead and read them all in a single sitting — then sleep and repeat. These stories never grow old (although the same cannot be said of the little ones listening in your lap — so savor such moments while you still can).
Few things will put me to sleep any faster than the sound of rain upon my windows, and the occupants of The Napping House must feel the same way. They pile one by one onto a cozy bed, where they remain snoozing, snoring, dozing, and dreaming, until the storm blows over, the bed breaks, and nap time comes to a happy end. Audrey Wood’s cumulative verse is simple and witty, and her husband Don’s fabulously funny illustrations make this book an especial pleasure to read.
Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Cheyette Lewison is another family favorite, as much for the beautiful artwork as for the sweet poem. In lilting, repetitive verse, a young boy asks his father about the sleeping habits of various farm animals, which are illustrated in warm colors and rich detail. The father answers each question lovingly and patiently as his son slowly picks up his toys before bed. By the end of the book, the nursery is tidy and the boy is tenderly tucked into bed himself.
None of my children have been able to resist the bright colors and ritualistic simplicity of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, in which each and every item in the nursery is wished a fond goodnight before the lights finally dim and the young one drops off to sleep. Having gone through several paper-page copies of this book through the years, we highly recommend the board book version.
Sadly, Home Sweet Home by Jean Marzollo is currently out of print, although you may still be able to check it out from your local library or track down a used copy. The text is understated and unpretentious — a poem of blessing, a celebration of life, a lovely benediction upon creatures great and small that share the planet we call home. Reading this prayer with your little ones makes for a calm and peaceful way to end the day.
In Time for Bed, author Mem Fox imagines what mother animals must say to their babies to settle them down for the night. “It’s time for bed, little sheep, little sheep, the whole wide world is going to sleep.” The rhyme is simple and rhythmic and the illustrations of the sleepy lambs, kittens, fish, puppies, mice, birds, bees, and deer are likewise very restful and calming.
It is time for Dinosaur to go to bed, but his beloved blanket is missing and he can’t go to sleep without it. Fun, liftable flaps and felt squares let children join in while Dinosaur hunts high and low to find it. And, wouldn’t you know? It turns up where you’d least expect it. Dinosaur’s Binkit by Sandra Boynton is a book even our littlest sleepyheads enjoy. Nice and sturdy, this board book has held up remarkably well, especially considering the amount of wear it receives.
Little Nutbrown Hare tries his very best to express in words the vast love he feels for Big Nutbrown Hare. Yet at every turn, he is assured that Big Nutbrown Hare’s love runs even deeper (and wider and higher) — although the last declaration is saved until after Little Nutbrown Hare has fallen asleep. Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You is an endearing tale the whole family will enjoy.
So that’s our short list of beloved bedtime books. Do you have a favorite that we missed? Tell us about it below. We’re always open to adding something new to our nightly stack of stories (and our children certainly won’t complain if bedtime is delayed to accommodate another title or two).