Children’s book blog: Books for bedtime

[This is the latest in an occasional series by Beth Melo, a Southborough mom who loves to read to her kids. In this installment, Beth shares recommendations for books that are a perfect choice for bedtime reading. This post was originally published on the Southborough Library website, and has been reposted here with permission. For more of Beth’s book recommendations, click here.]

Mommy’s ready to sleep.  Why aren’t you?

It’s easy for bedtime to keep slipping later in the summer.  The sun is out late and everyone is trying to make the most of summer vacation.  Then back to school time hits and suddenly parents have trouble getting their kids to bed at a reasonable hour.  With that in mind, I’m thinking about the books that are well suited for settling down young children into sweet dreams.

For children who like to employ delay tactics, these books offer Excuse Busters:   

  • Sleepyhead by Karma Wilson deals with the popular refrain among bed-avoiding children, “just one more” (book, hug, glass of water, etc.).
  • Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late is another fun one that deals with delay tactics.  Having your child emphatically refuse the pigeon’s popular and creative excuses makes it hard for them to try using them after.  On the other hand, the child’s excited participation isn’t great for settling to sleep.  So it may be best to use this only when there is time to follow with a sleepier book.

I know some children can be terrified of the dark or being alone.  I don’t have experience with that and am not sure how much books help.  My children were a little anxious about being alone in the dark at some stages.  These books are good for children with mild bedtime anxieties.  

  • Night’s Nice by Barbara and Ed Emberly is a sweet book about happy things that night brings.  It’s a nice book for any child that is nervous in the dark.
  • Marc just couldn’t sleep by Gabriela Keselman is a cute story about nighttime fears.  The boys fears and his mother’s attempts to alleviate them are increasingly ridiculous.  Finally, the boy is simply too exhausted to be afraid.
  • Wanda’s Monster by Eilleen Spinelli is a fun spin on the monster in the closet.  Here, when Wanda’s parents fail to convince her that there is no monster in her closet, her grandmother confides the “truth”.  There is a monster temporarily living in her closet.  She convinces Wanda to feel sorry for the lonely monster forced to live in an uncomfortable closet.  Out of compassion, Wanda befriends and helps her monster.
  • Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Melanie Watt is a fun way to poke fun of fear of the dark.  The Squirrel’s worst nightmares all seem to come true, until we learn that the fearsome shapes in the night are shadows of harmless things.

Another type of book I enjoy at bedtime is one that encourages us to reflect on the day and look forward to the next:

For easing children into a sleepy state, I like books that are a little repetitive.  That doesn’t mean they are monotonous.  Books that use refrains or ongoing themes have a rhythmic quality that is nice for settling down.  Some books good for getting sleepy:

These bedtime stories are simply fun:

  • Tiger Can’t Sleep by S.J. Fore is about a boy who can’t sleep because the tiger in his closet (friendly, not scary) is too restless and noisy.  Using a goofy voice for the tiger helps get giggles out of my son.
  • Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durand has changed the bedtime routine in our house.  When Mitchell is reluctant to head to bed, his father becomes the car to take him there.  The fun is in seeing how Mitchell has almost total control of his car, even at the risk of crashing.
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson is a classic.  It’s a creative goodnight walk through the pictures that the young boy draws.  It ends right where it should, with Harold drawing up his covers and going to sleep.

I hope these books help make bedtime reading fun and successful.  As always, if you have any questions for me, feel free to e-mail  If you have any additional suggestions for other parents, you can post a comment below.

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