Bedtime is one of the most beautiful experiences a parent can share with a child.
If you’re anything like me and my family, story books are a staple of our bedtime routine.
Multiple books, typically. “Just one more, dad!”
My three kids and I have read countless books through the years. But there are 5 that stand out in my mind. These are books that I can nearly recite from start to finish.
If you’re looking for the best bedtime story books for kids, especially younger kids, here are my recommendations.
1. The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud
The best story books combine a great story with great writing and great illustrations.
The Bear’s Song checks all 3 boxes.
Here’s the gist of it: Little Bear starts chasing a bee in the forest. The bee leads him into the city. Papa Bear chases him — all the way to an opera house.
The best moment, the moment my kids love most of all, is when Papa starts singing The Bear’s Song in the opera house, scaring away the patrons but delighting Little Bear, who is tucked away in one of the seats.
I like to roar at my kids on the page where Papa Bear sings, and they like to laugh and laugh.
This book is one for the ages. It never gets old, no matter how much we read it.
2. Today by Julie Morstad
Today is less a story book and more of an interactive reading adventure. Each new page presents the kids with decisions to make.
What will they have for breakfast today?
What will they wear?
What will they do for fun?
How will they entertain themselves if it rains?
What pajamas will they put on at bedtime?
There’s even a page that asks the kids what type of toys they want to play with. On this page, my daughter would always race to her closet to pull out a doll that looked just like the doll in the book.
You can’t go wrong with Today. Your kids will love it.
3. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
OK, so you likely know about Where the Wild Things Are already. It was made into a major motion picture, of course, with a cover of the Arcade Fire’s Wake Up scoring the trailer:
But I didn’t fully appreciate the beautiful story and the lyrical quality of the writing until I was much older.
The story is heartbreakingly familiar.
A little boy feels like he’s been wronged by his mother.
So he escapes to a distant land to do whatever he does.
But then, despite the fun he’s had, he misses home.
And he returns to find that his loving mother has left him dinner — and it’s still hot.
My favorite line, because of the way it rolls off the tongue:
“Oh please don’t go — we’ll eat you up we love you so!”
And Max said: “No!”
Reading this book is like singing a song in the way that it ebbs and flows. There’s a reason it’s a classic — and your kids will love it to this day.
4. Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle & Jill McElmurry
This book gets stuck in my head like a song that’s overplayed on Top 40 radio. I could recite the whole thing from start to finish.
My older kids (ages 6 and 7) had not read this book in years. But we bought a new copy for our 18-month-old. Not only does he love it just as much as the older two, his dad still remembers every word.
And there’s a good message in the book, too.
The Little Blue Truck heads to the big city … only to find that everything is fast and everyone is selfish.
He finds himself in a traffic jam when the mayor’s limousine breaks down and the Little Blue Truck gives him a ride.
It ends with the Little Blue Truck toting the mayor as lead vehicle in an impromptu parade.
“They clapped their hands and yelled ‘HOORAY!’ for the Little Blue Truck who led the way.”
My older kids always yelled HOORAY! on that line … and so too does my 18-month-old, as though he were given lessons in the womb.
5. Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin & Daniel Salmieri
This one gets weird in the best way.
Raccoon-sniffing broom bots? Check.
“Ah, pizza. So beautiful you could hang it on the wall of a museum, so convenient you could eat it in a bathtub.”
Despite its weirdness, I love it — and the kids love it, too.
Secret Pizza Party brings much-needed creativity and levity to your rotation of bedtime story books for kids.
I can’t recommend it enough.
What’s Your Favorite?
I’ve read a lot of books with the kids — but I haven’t read them all.
What books would you recommend I add to our rotation before my kids get too old for bedtime story books?
Let us know in the comments section below.