My husband and I love reading to our little one each night as part of our nightly routine, but one can only read Curious George Goes to the Zoo so many times before going a little apeshit. Although we would prefer books geared toward a slightly older crowd, such as Dr. Seuss, our infant still struggles to grasp the concept of saving Whoville.
With all the research that has shown that reading to children from birth through kindergarten develops language, literacy, and social-emotional skills with long-term benefits (American Academy of Pediatrics), I want to make this nightly tradition something that doesn’t cause my husband to hide in the bathroom with an imaginary case of the shits every night. Luckily for us, the Howard County Library System is simply amazing and should have no problem supplying us enough books to last a few billion years (if we live that long).
Below you will find a list of LoCo approved books for story time. These are not the baby proof board books that we give our son to slobber all over. These are the sometimes delicate books we read together each night, the ones that won’t kill us to read a few dozen times.
- Otter in Space by Sam Garton
- This book is the perfect combination of colorful and entertaining illustrations (such as an image of the slumped-over teddy bear with a description, “Teddy took his space suit off. He didn’t seem to be taking space travel seriously.”) and story that really captures the imaginative practicality of a toddler.
- Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
- So there are a few of these. We have read Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck’s Beep Along Book. We found both books entertaining and a nice way to practice our animals without torturing ourselves with another round of Old MacDonald.
- Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
- With vibrant images and language that flows, this is one of those books with a lesson, “sometimes if you’re different you just need a different song.”
- Dinosaur Rumpus! by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees
- Okay, so this one is not so much a bedtime story, but it is a lot of fun. The rhymes and repetition keep my son’s interest and we tend to start moving and dancing to the “Shake, shake, shudder near the sludgy old swamp. The dinosaurs are coming. Get ready to romp.” As a bonus, it has a lot of dinosaur names included (now if I can just figure out how to pronounce them before he is old enough to understand the words I garble).
- I’m A Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian
- My son absolutely loves this book. The pictures, rhythm, and rhymes in this book capture his attention and make it another fun book to read. The concept is simple, but provides opportunity to point out body parts, dance to the rhythm, or just snuggle up and enjoy the watercolor pictures.
- Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy
- The illustrations of Ragweed demonstrating the examples are just as funny as his thoughts (“Cows eat grass all day and make milk. That’s their job. That’s not your job. Don’t eat grass. You will really, really want to eat grass. But don’t eat grass. If you DO eat grass, you won’t get a biscuit. But you will throw up a biscuit, and you can eat that one again.”)
- I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa Mccourt and Cyd Moore
- A good one for parents to read to their children as it reinforces the message of unconditional love. It is also quite amusing with some of the mother’s responses (child asks, “Would you still love me….if I were a big scary ape?” and mother replies that if he were a big scary ape, she would build his birthday cake out of bananas… touché mama).
- Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman
- This is a true classic (1960) that has stood the test of time. The illustrations are of simple things that young babies can recognize (bird, dog, cow, plane, etc.) and yet the story is amusing enough to read time and again.
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- There are numerous articles criticizing this book. Parents are creeped out by “a quiet old lady who was whispering hush” and the baby bunny saying “goodnight nobody.” Parents detest the color choice and decor of the little bunny’s 1940s style bedroom and his failure to take care of his dirty dishes. Despite this, Goodnight Moon was written in 1947 and currently sells 800,000 books annually. Young children love this book because they are currently eating up new words for dessert and love matching images to words that they recognize i.e. Mom just said mouse and I see a mouse right there! I am F*&K@$! awesome! And you know what, I’m going to put myself out there and say I like it! It’s classic. It gets my little one to settle down for bed. That’s the key, right?
- Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
- This book has a great rhythm and teaches children not only colors, but that accidents happen, shoes get dirty, and life goes on. It is a very positive and fun book that both children and parents can enjoy. As a huge bonus, you can access Pete the Cat songs and videos for free at: http://www.petethecatbooks.com/songs/
- Little Green Peas by Keith Baker
- I really love all of the little green peas books including LMNO Peas by Keith Baker! This book is actually what got my son eating his peas at dinner. It is full of adorable illustrations that teach things like colors, the alphabet, and numbers. The books also include seek and finds as there is a little lady bug and paper airplane hiding on each page. The images really encourage children to use their imaginations and include so many small details for them to notice.
- Bear Sees Colors and Bear’s New Friend by Karma Wilson
- Although many of the bear books are good, these two have really stood out to us. These books have a good rhythm and rhyme, but not to the point of becoming obnoxious. In bear sees colors, the beautiful pictures include so many things toddlers can begin to name and at the end, the illustrator puts the images together so the toddler can pick out the colors once again. Bear’s New Friend introduces the characters that are consistent throughout the series and explores meeting someone new and welcoming them as a new friend. These two books have really cute stories without some of the annoying repetition found in some of the other books in series.
- Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown
- This is a somewhat silly book about a bear who finds a little boy in the woods and convinces her mother to let her keep him as a pet. Our son absolutely adored this book and found it very funny. The illustrations are classic and simple. This is a fun one to do the voices and can encourage a lot of dialog about responsibility and taking care of pets.
- Eight Animals Play Ball by Susan Middleton Elya
- This is a fantastic read about sports, cooperative play, and friendship. The story has a good rhythm and rhyme, which certainly helps the reader as Spanish words are incorporated throughout. The story is simple, yet engaging, and has been a huge hit with our little baseball player.
- Gossie and Friends books by Oliver Dunrea
- The characters in these books are sweet and relatable and the phrases are simple enough to be easily understood and remembered. Our favorite is Booboo, which is about a gosling who likes to eat, and subsequently eats (and burps) bubbles, stating, “good food.” I don’t think I have to explain why my 2 and 1/2 year old son thinks this is hilarious.
- Elephant and Piggie Books by Mo Willems
- There are several books in this series that have really stood out to us, but thus far, we have enjoyed all of them. Definite favorites are Waiting Is Not Easy! and Listen To My Trumpet! These stories are carried by their dialog and very simplistic illustrations that portray the emotions (often excitement) the two characters are feeling and do a wonderful job of teaching big ideas in an easy to understand way. I love reading these stories before bed because they always spark great conversation with my little one.
- Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson
- Though some may consider this a Halloween story since it is about a witch, it really could be read year round. The story is about a witch who lets various animals ride along with her on the broom who ultimately save her from a dragon. The story has a nice little rhyme to it and kids two and older seem to really enjoy everything about it.
- Duck & Goose, It’s Time For Christmas! by Tad Hills
- So let me start by saying, the Duck & Goose books are very simple and definitely geared toward young infants and toddlers. Many of the Duck & Goose books we read a time or two and are ready to move on. However, what makes this particular book different from the others is the silly nature of the story where Duck tells Goose, “it is not time for catching snowflakes… it is not time for throwing snowballs… [etc.].” Then of course we giggle and say, “silly Goose!” My son loved this book at 18 months and the following year at 2 and 1/2 was still interested, but I would be surprised if he reached for it next year.
- It’s Okay To Make Mistakes by Todd Parr
- There are quite a few Todd Parr books easily distinguishable by their unique and colorful illustrations that have more of a 1960s feel to them and most, if not all of which deliver a heavy message. It’s Okay To Make Mistakes is certainly our favorite and has helped my son to say, “it’s okay,” when he messes up rather than being overwhelmed by his emotions. This is a great read and never seems to get old.
- Rosie Revere, Engineer and others by Andrea Beaty
- Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect are wonderful stories about children pursuing their talents despite some setbacks or discouragement. The stories are more lengthy and geared toward toddlers and children who have a basic grasp on language, but still have a good rhythm and rhyme to help them along. There is a third story in this series, Ada Twist, Scientist, which is also a cute story, but can be off putting to some parents because little Ada is seen causing some mischief and destruction in doing her experiments. Overall, we enjoy these stories as much as our little guy and do not mind reading them time and again.
Although I do not encourage TV watching at this age, I picked up the Baby Signing Time DVD at our local library and lo and behold, our son loves it! It’s 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted showering, cooking, or cleaning time and as a bonus, we have picked up a few basic signs. I know recent research has shown that baby signing does not improve long-term literacy, but if my little guy can learn a way to tell me he is hungry other than screaming in my face, that would be great.
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- Lama Lama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
*It is my hope that I will be able to update this post in the future with additional favorites. Please feel free to add your own favorite bedtime story books in the comment section of this post!