Reading any book is a soothing way to send your baby off to dreamland — but stories about going to bed, sleeping, or dreaming are particularly suitable for bedtime, and can even help your child understand and accept bedtime rituals as he gets older. No matter which book you pull out at bedtime, read it in a soothing voice to help calm and reassure your baby.
Here are some of our favorite bedtime books, guaranteed to make at least one of you sleepy:
Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann
When the zookeeper makes his nighttime rounds, one mischievous gorilla steals his keys and follows him, releasing the other animals from their cages one by one. Under a moonlit sky, they parade silently behind the sleepy zookeeper and follow him into his house, where the keeper’s wife discovers them and escorts them back to their beds. Practically wordless, the book tells a delightful going-to-bed story with magical illustrations that will enchant your child.
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
For decades children have taken the story of the little rabbit in Goodnight Moon to heart as he performs his evening ritual of saying goodnight to every object in his room, including “a comb, and a brush, and a bowl full of mush.” Clement Hurd’s illustrations start out intensely colored and gradually fade to shades of gray as the bunny grows drowsy. Many parents tell us they depend on this quintessential bedtime book to help their children nod off at night.
The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
When a young bunny threatens to run away and become a rock … a fish … a flower … his mother joins him in his imaginary flight and assures him that she’ll follow wherever he goes. It’s a sweet story of the unconditional love of a mother for her child, told in soothing rhythms — an ideal book for helping your baby go to sleep feeling safe and cared for.
Hush Little Baby, by Sylvia Long
If you don’t think the classics can be improved on, reading Sylvia Long’s new edition of “Hush Little Baby” may change your mind. Unlike the original song’s language, which spoke of a mother buying her child all sorts of things to comfort him, this new version emphasizes the beauty and comfort found in the natural world. The familiar bedtime melody will calm and soothe your child, and you’ll appreciate the book’s tender, gentle spirit.
Counting Kisses: A Kiss-and-Read Book, by Karen Katz
“My tired little baby, do you need a kiss?” From “ten little kisses on teeny tiny toes” to “one last kiss on your sleepy, dreamy head,” sparse text and winsome illustrations lead you and your baby through a kissing countdown that’ll soon be a favorite bedtime ritual for you both.
Snoozers: Seven Short Short Bedtime Stories for Lively Little Kids, by Sandra Boynton
The charming Snoozers serves up seven bite-size tales sweetened with humor. Each little story takes a minute or less to read. Colorful tabs help older babies turn the pages themselves. And the wonderfully absurd “Silly Lullaby” at the end just might become a family favorite: “Go to sleep, my zoodle / my fibblety-fitsy foo / Go to sleep, sweet noodle / The owl is whisp’ring, ‘Moo.'”
Good Night, Little Bear, by Patsy Scarry; illustrated by Richard Scarry
Here’s a classic Little Golden Book that many moms and dads will remember from childhood. After finishing a bedtime story, Father Bear hoists Little Bear on his shoulders and takes him to bed. In this playful tale of “Where could Little Bear be?” Father Bear searches (wink, wink) high and low — above the china cabinet, under the stove, even in the woodbox outside — to find him. Little Bear finally reveals himself when they pass a mirror. In a gesture every parent can relate to, Little Bear goes to bed believing he’s fooled his dad.
Kitten’s First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes
Simply told and luminously illustrated in black and white with soft shades of gray, this darling story about a kitten who mistakes the moon for a bowl of milk is a comedy of errors. As Kitten chases after the moon, she finds herself in humorous predicaments until she ends up back home, where she finally finds what she’s looking for. The whimsical ending makes the refrain throughout Kitten’s journey all the more amusing: “Still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting.”