Reading a story to my child at bedtime was one of the things I was definitely looking forward to before he was born. Although he appears to be a bit allergic to sleep in general, we are now, at age two, at a stage where this cosy dream has become a reality. We upgraded to a single bed from his cot a while ago partly so that we could comfortably lie down while we read, meaning no transition between stories and sleep. Well, the transition now consists of switching the light off and having my face stroked vigorously until he falls asleep, but at least everyone is horizontal.
I thought I would share some of the books we often choose for a bedtime story. I generally read three a night, so we get through loads, but these are definitely making it into the line-up on a regular basis.
Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
This is an absolute classic and glancing at the back I see it has been since 1947! You are basically saying ‘goodnight’ to your child repeatedly while reciting a list of gently rhyming words. Perfect. Not exactly a riveting narrative but that’s not what you need to capitalise on the melatonin wave. My favourite page is ‘Goodnight nobody / Goodnight mush’ as it adds a slight touch of the uncanny to an otherwise calm experience.
Dawn – Uri Shulevitz
My husband found this in a charity shop and it’s beautiful and poetic. Although events occur at the opposite end of the night, the spare but gorgeous description of a lakeside scene just before sunrise is akin to a mindfulness meditation and lovely to read in a quiet voice in a dimly lit room. The watercolour pictures are atmospheric and I like how it ends where lots of books would just be beginning.
I Love You, Stinky Face – Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore
Another charity shop find, this time it was my choice and I obviously decided to buy it on title alone. When I read it I found it was a sweet bedtime conversation between a mother and child, where the child is checking whether they would still be loved if they were a variety of off-putting animals and monsters. My son is interested in the funny and extreme situations the child dreams up and the details in the pictures but I find I’m more focused on soppily gazing at him as I read the mum’s speech. Gratifyingly, he delightedly says ‘My Mummy!’ when the story starts, which I take to mean ‘Thank you for sharing the gift of reading with me, Mummy. I really appreciate everything you do for me and that your love is unconditional, no matter how much and how regularly I test this. I love you too’. Another great feature of this book is that there is nothing in the words or pictures to confirm the gender of the child, which I would love to see more of in children’s books.
Sleepy Me – Marni McGee and Sam Williams
While writing this I’m realising how much of our collection is from charity shops, as this is the third out of four! This one was a gift from my sister and it functions in much the same way as Goodnight Moon. A toddler is on their way to bed, depicted in soft pencil drawings. The word ‘sleepy’ is repeated relentlessly, like a soporific hypnotism, which did actually work when my son was younger. It’s simple, it rhymes and I’ve read it at least 100 times so I now know it off by heart. It’s always useful to have a few stories you can recite in the dark while half asleep.
I hope these suggestions are helpful. Seemingly my main recommendation is: get down to your local charity shop and find your next favourite bedtime story!