Bedtime stories are not only a fun way to end the night, but they can make the bond between you and your child stronger while also improving your child’s language development skills and imagination.
According to child psychologists, there is a perfect time to start reading stories to your child, and it’s earlier than you may think. While most parents tend to start reading to their kids after they’ve spoken their first word(s), studies show that shared reading as early as eight months is beneficial, and can improve their language scores when they grow up to 12 and 16 months. This is around the time that your baby can start to sit up by themselves. Evidence shows that this can lead to above average literacy test scores and increased emotional connections with reading.
In this post, we tried include bedtime stories that you can request from your local library, however, we made sure to include links to order from Amazon, as well (noted in green text). We’ve also found some user-friendly online versions that you can print out to use for bedtime reading.
Use the following links to jump ahead to the section that interests you most.
A 2016 Time to Read survey found that bedtime reading with your child can benefit them at up to 11 years old. But no matter how old your child is, make sure that the material you’re reading is appropriate for their reading level. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers should be reading books with a simple vocabulary and that incorporate pictures or drawings. Once your child begins learning to read in elementary school, chapter books and more advanced vocabulary may be more beneficial and keep them more captivated. Here are some more tips that will help keep bedtime reading fun between you and your child:
Read slowly. This is especially important if there may be words in the story that your child doesn’t know or understand yet. If there are pictures, this also gives your child time to observe them fully.
Read with your finger and have your child watch the words. There are a couple different ways in which we learn, and so it’s good to cover multiple bases. Your child will hear the word you are reading while they are learning the word visually. This way, they become more familiar with pronunciations and spelling patterns.
Add inflection and different voices for different characters. To keep your child’s attention and help to enhance their imagination, it’s always a good idea to add some dramatic flare to your story telling. Using different voices for different characters will help them to differentiate between them, and emphasizing moments with speaking in a whisper or getting louder will make the story that much more exciting.
Involve your child. This is for children who are about five years old or older. If there’s a question asked in the story that’s pretty straightforward, ask your child to answer it. You can also swap out names for your child’s name or friends’ and family’s names, which makes it feel more personal. Also try to draw parallels between lessons learned in the story and how they apply to your child’s life.
Read each story more than once. Much like you notice more things the more you watch a movie, your child will discover more each time you read the story to them. Try to do so on consecutive nights. This will help them to expand their learning abilities.
But don’t stick with the same story every night. Children of course develop favorite stories, but it’s important to switch it up to continue their development, as children will sometimes memorize stories instead of learn to read the words on the page. It’s also just a good practice to keep their imagination going, and learn new lessons from different stories.
Peek-a Who? by Nina Laden: This is a fun two board book that features colorful pictures and simple rhymes. Children can guess what’s peaking through the die-cut windows, and the anticipation will help to keep them engaged all the way to the surprise ending.
Where Is My Little Crocodile? by Ingo Blum: This is a series of animal seek-and-find books. Within the pages, a little crocodile named Charlie is hiding in different places, which encourages interaction from your child. The text is simple and partly repetitive, which is perfect for children in this age group.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: A classic that you might have read when you were a child yourself. A little bunny starts by saying “Goodnight room, goodnight moon,” and makes his way around the room, saying good night. This should help lull your child to sleep while helping them to learn and read.
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff: Another classic that you may already be familiar with. In this story, a hungry mouse shows up on the doorstep of a young boy, and he wants a cookie. A cookie leads to a glass of milk, and so on. This book has sparse, rhythmic text and a circular tale, which makes it great for kids who are beginning to learn how to read.
Another by Christian Robinson: This is a beautifully illustrated book that brings its readers on a playful and imaginative journey into another world with a different perspective. This book helps widen your child’s category of thought while also captivating them with its illustrations.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: This book was first published in 1964. It’s a classic that has underlying lessons about the importance of nature and appreciation as it follows the relationship between a boy and his favorite tree. Silverstein is also the author of some cult-classics including Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch: A heartwarming story about the bond between a mother and her son that can remind anyone, no matter what age, that they are loved. This book features slightly longer paragraphs of text that will help to improve your child’s reading endurance, and there is even a new version that features pop-up displays.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst: A classic that teaches a very good lesson to children. This book contains larger portions of language, but still maintains a limited vocabulary and large text, which keeps things simpler for your child while they learn to read. The illustrations are more realistic, as well.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen: This is a New York Times Best Seller that tells the story of a bear who has lost his hat and wants it back. This story is witty and humorous; told completely in dialogue in tandem with the illustrations, with winks at the reader that will have kids thrilled to be in on the unspoken joke.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a children’s book that has 100 bedtime stories all about the lives of 100 different women from both past and present, and from all over the world. Each woman’s story is written in the style of a fairy tale.The book is also illustrated by 60 different female artists.
Chicken Soup for the Girls Soul by Jack Canfield: a girl-powered version of the original Chicken Soup for the Soul, this book has “real stories by real girls about real stuff.” It’s something your daughter can take through the many phases of life; from her first Barbie to letting go of her favorite teddy bear to slow dancing, and more.
The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling: This story is largely based off the old Greek tale of King Midas, except with chocolate instead of gold. This story has some good lessons about gluttony, family, and appreciating what your have, all while telling a funny story about a very relatable young boy.
My Treasury of Stories for Boys is a collection of 23 wonderful tales that are specifically selected for little boys. Some classics featured include “Puss In Boots” and “Pinocchio,” alongside some original stories about magic and adventure.
I Don’t Want To Go To Sleep by Sarah McGregor: This is the story of a little girl who doesn’t want to go to bed, so her mother takes her on a few magical adventures before the little girl finally falls asleep to dream about all the places she had just explored. It’s quick and fun, and ends with the little girl going to sleep.
The Little Yellow Monster by Katty Melnichenko: This is a tale about a little, furry, yellow monster who lives inside a sock. It takes less than three minutes to read, and ends with the line “So I will say goodbye.”
The Very Tired Lioness by Maren Bodenstein: This is a beautiful short story that can be interpreted in multiple ways. It begins with a very tired lioness who sleeps all day and all night, until the sun invites her to come follow her into the sky, where she could see the beautiful world she left behind.
Prince Hyacinth and the Dear Little Princess by Andrew Lang: This is a vintage short story about a Prince who was born with a very big nose, but he loved his big nose. This story teaches some important lessons about vanity, self-confidence, and humility.
Tales from Around the World by Graham Percy: This is a collection of 10-minute bedtime stories full of imagination, color, and detail about all different countries and cultures.
The Boy and the Ocean by Max Lucado: This tale teaches children about God, and how wide, deep, and big his love is. It tells the story of a boy, his parents, and the wonder of creation.
The Bible Story by Gali Pawlitz: This is a collection of 130 timeless and easy to read bedtime stories. They also include prayer summaries and great illustrations.
Moti the Mitzvah Mouse by Vivian Newman: Moti the mouse stays up all night doing good deeds for his human family and animal friends, but who will do mitzvah for Moti? This is a children’s book that has fun interactive questions and a good message.
Treasury of Jewish Bedtime Stories by Shmuel Blitz: This book contains over 20 stories about the Jewish faith. The heroes in the stories range from kings to sages to fantasizing laborers. It also has great illustrations for Liat Benyamini Ariel.
Jane Goodall Biography for Kids by William Rice: This tells the story of Jane Goodall and her life with gorillas in a fun and easy way. Best for readers ages 6-11.
What If You Had Animal Teeth? by Sandra Markle: This is a fun book that helps children explore what it would be like if their own front teeth were replaced by different animals’, like a beaver, great white shark, or snake. It teaches children about other animals’ teeth, and also how to care for their own.
Goodnight Princess by Michelle Robinson: This is said to be the perfect bedtime book. This book helps little dreamers wish their favorite things all a sweet goodnight in rhymes and with pretty illustrations.
Today I’ll Be A Princess by Heather Brown: There are many advantages to being a princess, and some not so great, like not being able to play in the mud. This book tells how both sides of the grass can be green, and more importantly, is also sparkly.
Disney Who’s Who by the Disney Book Group: A guidebook to over 500 Disney Characters.
365 Bedtime Stories by the Disney Book Group: 365 stories for a Disney story every night of the year.
Love: From Sesame Street by Sesame Workshop: This is a New York Times bestseller that explores all the definitions of love with all your friends from Sesame Street. Best for ages 4-7 years old.
Elmo’s Favorite Places by Carol Monica: This is a lift-the-flap book that explores all of Elmo’s favorite places and all the colors, shapes, numbers, and letters along the way.
Dr. Seuss’s Beginner Book Collection (Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks) by Dr. Seuss: As kids who grew up on Dr. Seuss books, we couldn’t pick out just one or two, so here is a complete collection of the classics.
Frozen: A Pop-Up Adventure by Matthew Reinhart: this book retells the adventures with sisters Anna and Elsa, but with nearly 20 pop-ups. It teaches readers of all ages to let it go (amongst other valuable lessons).
Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories is a collection of short stories that were originally published in 1924, and which illustrate the principles of Christianity. You can check them out here.