Top 5 Bedtime Stories to Read to Young Children

November 17, 2016

Reading with their children is often a great pleasure for parents, who enjoy the time to bond with their little ones. It is also invaluable for toddlers as they develop language skills and learn more about their environment. While there is an endless supply of reading material designed to rear young children, a few stand out as classics that will help engage them mentally and emotionally.

Why Read to Children?

Children develop language through listening to stories and by reading with adults, following along with the printed word. It endears them to the process of engaging with literature, increasing their confidence with academic work in the process. Even parents who face their own challenges with reading can support their children’s development by having books available in the home and taking them to storytelling time at the local library or community center.

Top Picks for Bedtime Reading

When choosing a good bedtime story for children, parents can opt for characters that provide good examples for their little ones and underlying morals that they want to teach. Since adults are trying to get their kids to sleep, they might also look for language and story progression that makes kids tired. Here are some favorites from parents that cross generations.

1. “Goodnight Moon”

A classic by Margaret Wise Brown, “Goodnight Moon” seems perfectly appropriate for parents who are looking forward to lights out. The book’s calming rhythm and simple story consists of meeting everything in the room and then saying goodnight one by one. It’s a great starter book for getting very young children into the routine of listening to a story before closing their eyes for the night.

Goodnight Moon Book Cover

2. “Where the Wild Things Are”

There may be a movie version of this favorite by Maurice Sendak, but the storybook’s pictures and a child’s imagination are part of its wide appeal. As punishment, the protagonist is sent to his room without supper, where a forest and wild animals show up. He learns about loneliness and eventually longs for the comfort of home.

Where The Wild Things Are Book Cover

3. Fairy Tales

In the rush to find new stories for kids, it’s easy to overlook tales that have been around for decades. An old book of fairy tales borrowed from the library can give kids a sense of wonder. Consider classics, such as Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel & Gretel, or stories that put animals at the center of the action, like Rudyard Kipling’s The Cat that Walked by Himself. Connect these stories with a child’s real-life environment, like her own cat sleeping in the corner, to make the tales all the more engaging.

4. “The Secret Garden”

Children can develop a greater appreciation for the natural world from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel “The Secret Garden.” The main character finds a world of adventure in her uncle’s gigantic home, including a mysterious garden that is at first locked, before she finds a secret way inside.

The Secret Garden Book Cover

5. “The Paper Bag Princess”

Written by the same author who would later pen the classic “Love You Forever,” Robert Munsch, “The Paper Bag Princess” is a different take on a typical story about fairy tale royalty. The story’s heroine uses her wits to get out of dangerous situations and does not choose the prince at the end of the day.

The Paper Bag Princess Book Cover

Tips for Parents

Parents can switch up the bedtime routine by sharing stories with their children. Instead of opening up a book or surfing online for tales written by others, adults and children can tell stories to one another. It is a way for kids to develop their imaginations and learn how to express themselves through speech.

For adults, integrating a storytelling time with bedtime reading is a way to pass on cultural traditions and knowledge from previous generations. Grandparents can tell stories about when they were young to help develop the family bond and educate children about their ancestry.

When it comes to books, parents should offer a range of topics and styles. Advanced readers may prefer a story written at a lower level simply because the characters and story are of greater interest. Children may find some stories funny, sad or scary, and parents can use these emotions to open up new conversations or to get to know their children’s own personalities a bit better.

Get in the Habit, But Don’t Stress!

Children develop their best skills when they are enjoying the activity and not frustrated. A toddler who likes a particular section of a story might want to hear it repeated or want to stop before the story is finished. Parents can opt to honor these choices in order to support the happiness kids feel when reading or being read to.

It is a good idea to keep reading time low-stress for parents and kids. Bedtime reading is primarily about bonding and introducing language in a safe environment. Whether parents choose a chapter book, a continuing series or a short tale that can be finished in a few minutes, kids can have a happy time reading and, as they get older, become more inclined to explore literature on their own.

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