Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bedtime Story Essentials

A couple of months ago, I wrote about going to the public library and was struck by a friend’s comment that “it’s so good to hear you talk about books again.”  While I haven’t ever stopped thinking about books, I definitely don’t share what we’re reading here at Family O often enough.  Since we read so much (too much?), and because I really do love to talk about books and reading, you can expect a lot more posts in this vein.   

Reading together is important.  When we read to young children, they cuddle close to see the pictures, snuggling into our arms and into the magic of a well-told story.  The words and pictures become an integral part of our relationships; my childhood memories of my favorite picture books are recorded in the voices of my parents.   Even now as I read some of these familiar stories aloud, I find myself reading them the same way my mom does…the same inflections, pauses, the same rhythm of the page turns.  Stories connect us.

While I share many stories with my kids throughout the day, bedtime is one of my favorite times for reading together. The following are the five bedtime stories that I consider essential for babies and young toddlers; these are books that both The Buster and Miss Meatball have consistently adored.   An added bonus, they are good enough to engage older children (think 3-6) as well.   

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
I know everyone always touts Brown’s Goodnight Moon as the quintessential bedtime story, but  I’m going to go ahead and risk heresy here and say that I like her Big Red Barn waaaaaay better.  The story is simple; we meet a variety of farm animals that, at the story’s end, go to sleep in the big red barn.  The Buster and Miss Meatball love pointing to the illustrations of familiar animals and making animal sounds as we read.  Like Goodnight Moon, the text has a soothing, easy rhythm and simple rhyme.  Unlike Goodnight Moon, it does not have any confusing pages that say “Goodnight nobody.”    
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
If you haven’t read this book, go out and get it right now.  With its all-too familiar situation (baby llama wants mama to come back upstairs after being tucked in) and catchy rhymes, you will likely find yourself quoting the text.  In fact, you may find yourself quoting the text when you wish you didn’t need to quote the text.  Example:  “Please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama!”

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault
While not strictly a bedtime story, this is the perfect book for the evenings we need to get extra wiggles out before saying goodnight.  My kids love the drum-like rhythm of the text and the bold illustrations of alphabet letters.  A good first introduction to the alphabet, the illustrations show both lower and uppercase letters.      

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
This may just be the perfect bedtime story.  The premise is simple: a group of zoo animals, aided by a key-stealing gorilla, follow the zookeeper home at bedtime.  The simple text and bright, engaging pictures make for a wonderful read-aloud, allowing room for the reader to add their own dialogue and descriptions.  This is Miss Meatball’s current favorite, which means we read it at least half a dozen times a day.  I’m not sick of it yet.  No, really, I’m not. It’s that good. 

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen  
I like all of the “How do Dinosaurs” series, but How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight is my favorite.  With its illustrations of misbehaving dinosaurs and rhyming text, this book is a big hit with The Buster and Miss Meatball.  What’s not to love about a T-rex puckering up his lips for a goodnight kiss?  Because the dinosaurs do the same things that children do at bedtime, the pictures are full of familiar actions and objects.

How about you?  What bedtime books do you find your family grabbing night after night?