While reading a book about bedtime at bedtime isn’t necessary, it’s always good to have that option! Here’s a list of some good bedtime books based on interests your kids probably already have!
If your child likes:
My Big Book of Trucks and Diggers, by Caterpillar (2011), then try Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (2011). The board book is full of photographs of construction equipment, first a large image on the left, then four smaller images of the different parts of that truck or digger on the right page. BoyChild’s digger vocabulary increased dramatically after reading this book since all the photographs are labeled! (Now I get to hear, “Mommy, EX-CUH-VAY-TOR!” and “Mommy, BACKHOE!” instead of just “Mommy, DIGGER!” every time we pass a construction site…) Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site features many of the same technical vocabulary words, but it is written in soothing verse and has softly rendered illustrations of anthropomorphic construction equipment getting ready for bed (just like your little one should be doing). We loved the three weeks of reading these two books daily while we had them checked out at the library, and they’re both on BoyChild’s Christmas list! Perfect for any digger lover from toddlerhood through early elementary!
Cat the Cat, Who Is THAT?, by Mo Willems (2010), then try Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep!, by Mo Willems (2010). I’ve written about both of these books before, but Mo Willems always bears repeating (as you’ll see when you read the Pigeon recommendation…)! The Cat the Cat books utilize simple sentences, repetition, rhyme, and predictability to make these books for new readers simple to enjoy. There’s always an amusing twist at the end (the Blarggie monster in Cat the Cat, Who Is THAT? and the owl for whom it is NOT time to sleep in Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep!), and visual gags are also common. Early elementary for independent readers, and even toddlers can enjoy it as a read-aloud!
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (2003), by Mo Willems, then try Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! (2006), by Mo Willems. If your child loves the Pigeon, then this book is the way to go. Just be prepared for little sleep-fighters to pull lines from the book at bedtime! (Or maybe it’s just my children who like to do humorous duet acting events by performing the Pigeon books by memory with each other… “Is that a hot dog?” “Iss not A hot dog! Iss MY hot dog!” and so forth…) Don’t worry, though; the Pigeon does fall asleep eventually, just like your preschooler does!
But Not the Hippopotamus (1982), by Sandra Boynton, then try The Going to Bed Book (1982) or Pajama Time (2000), by Sandra Boynton. We got The Going to Bed Book from the program our local library did when GirlChild was born where every baby born in the local hospitals got a board book, singing storytime cd, and library information in a packet before going home; this was where I first heard of Sandra Boynton, and we’ve loved her ever since! Pajama Time came soon after from my sister, a youth services librarian, who got it as a library discard because it was so well-used. (Pajama Time is also a song on the Philadelphia Chickens cd, and we always sing it!) (Oh, and does Sandra Boynton sound familiar? That’s probably because I’ve written about her a whole bunch, too! Just type her name in the search box on the right side of this page to find which posts feature at least one of her books!)
I Love You, Every Little Bit: A Pop-Up Book, written by Margaret Wang, illustrated by John Butler (2006), then try Time for Bed, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jane Dyer (1997). Our copy of I Love You, Every Little Bit is maimed almost beyond use by now (the hippo mommy is missing her head, both elephants their trunks, and several other animals don’t move like they used to…), but that’s because my kids really liked it (and it’s a pop-up book). It’s a great book to use when you’re snuggling a little one on your lap as you read the little rhymes and kissing your little one’s own “cheeks so round and sweet.” Time for Bed has similar rhymes, and each page has another animal parent putting a little one down to sleep. Both books ooze sweet parental love, and they’re great for little bitties (as long as you monitor use of the pop-up one!)!
Llama Llama Time to Share, by Anna Dewdney (2012), then try Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney (2005): Llama Llama is a preschool llama with all the typical preschool issues (including a limited ability to share)! Disaster strikes when new neighbor Nelly Gnu (get it? she’s their “gnu” neighbor? hahaha!) pushes Llama Llama’s willingness to share by playing with Fuzzy Llama, and a struggle resulting in a torn arm ensues. Mama Llama’s cool head (and mending abilities) prevail (as always), and Llama Llama and Nelly Gnu learn to share and become friends. In Llama Llama Red Pajama, little Llama (called “Baby Llama” in this book) gets a little anxious after his mama puts him down for bed and goes downstairs to work on the dishes. When she doesn’t come immediately when he calls, he first gets cranky, then alarmed, and he throws a pretty major fit. Mama Llama chastises him a little for the “tizzy” because “sometime’s Mama’s very busy,” but she reassures him that she loves him and is always close by even when she’s not right there. The cadence and rhyme of these books makes them incredibly fun read-alouds, perfect to share with your little llamas, er, children.
Good Thing You’re Not an Octopus!, by Julie Markes, illustrated by Maggie Smith (2001), then try Shhhhh! Everybody’s Sleeping!, by Julie Markes, illustrated by David Parkins (2005): In Good Thing You’re Not an Octopus!, small readers learn that, despite their complaints about things like getting dressed or a taking nap, things aren’t really so bad for them since an octopus has to deal with eight legs getting dressed and bears sleep all winter long! Shhhhh! Everybody’s Sleeping! similarly helps children keep things in perspective by listing all the community helpers who are also sleeping (like the child should be doing!). Markes’ humorous approach and the funny illustrations keep either of these books from being didactic despite the overall message of (gently) “Get over it; it’s not so bad!” 😉
Polar Bear Morning, by Lauren Thompson, pictures by Stephen Savage (2013), then try Polar Bear Night, by Lauren Thompson, pictures by Stephen Savage (2004): Geometric, spare illustrations in muted shades help tell the story of a little polar bear’s adventures outside her cave. In Polar Bear Morning, the little polar bear ventures out of her cave one morning and meets a new friend. In Polar Bear Night, she explores the world outside while her mother sleeps on, experiencing a meteor shower and a borealis, then she goes back to her cave and her mother at home. These picture books are deceptively simple; the questions posed to the reader (mimicking think-alouds) and occasionally complex vocabulary require an adult reader with a younger child, and they make the books that much more enriching and no less cute!
The Lion & the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney (2009), then try Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, by Jerry Pinkney (2011): Both of these books are all about the lush illustrations. The Lion & the Mouse, a wordless retelling (of sorts) of the Aesop fable, won the Caldecott Medal in 2010. Although I probably should have studied up on the fable a little more before sharing the book with my children, GirlChild did a pretty good job of understanding the story based on the illustrations without my help. (I did point out small details that I thought she might miss and asked questions to guide her commentary.) Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star includes the well-known lyrics (as well as other verses not so well-known), but the illustrations take a little more finesse to interpret because they don’t actually illustrate the song; they show a little chipmunk who is having a very big dream! Pinkney’s extremely detailed art will give small readers a lot to explore with a parent or on their own.
If none of these titles piques your interest, try searching “Sleep–Fiction” or “Bedtime–Fiction” in the subject search of your local library’s online catalog to find a book for bedtime that matches your child’s interests.
BONUS! Ten, Nine, Eight, by Molly Bang (1996): I couldn’t think of a read-alike for this one other than counting books in general, but this cute bedtime counting book by Molly Bang is a Caldecott Honor book and definitely a good one for your collection!