Children’s books (especially baby books) we love em, we hate em. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, we don’t really hate them, we just hate them if they’re boring to read. We’ve all been there as parents. The bedtime ritual, already brutal when you account for the whole teeth brushing requirement, gets even more tortuous when your little cherub wants you to read the same boring book night after night. Shoot me now, the little voice in your head says. Or, maybe you do rock, paper, scissors with your better half or make promises you know you won’t keep to get out of reading that book.
If push comes to shove, you dial it in, a monotone voice replaces the funny voices you managed when the book was still fresh, your mind on that episode of the Bachelorette or Walking Dead the DVR is recording.
I’ve wanted to do a blog post about great read-aloud kids books that adults will love too for awhile now. The problem is narrowing it down. I’m sure I forgot some gems (and that’s where the comment section is awesome for people to chime right in) or included some that you think don’t belong on this list. Reading is like eating, you like what you like and no one can convince me that lima beans taste good (unless that person also likes to eat chalk then they’ve got bigger problems).
Without further adieu, here is my bulletproof list of bedtime books that is guaranteed* (standard exclusions apply) to NOT put you to sleep and will engage you night, after night, after night, after night…..forever, and ever Amen. Sorry, got carried away there.
Baby/Toddler Board Books In this category engaging books are hard to find but I think these two are gems.
1. Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown My all time favorite bedtime book. I could still read it to my kids if they’d let me. The illustrations are so captivating as is the story about life for the animals on a farm and how they go to sleep at night. Truly a special book.
2. The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton A great book about bedtime routines. If you do all the actions like brushing your teeth, exercise and rock to sleep it makes it fun and engaging for both you and your child.
Toddler Picture Books
3. Cars, Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry You may be thinking we have plenty of Richard Scarry books at home we don’t need another one. Let’s me explain something. This is the ONLY Richard Scarry book you need (I’m not kidding!). It’s that good! The best part is finding “Goldbug” a little gold bug hidden on every page. The adults will love looking at the hundreds of details that are packed into each and every page. It will take MONTHS before you exhaust this book.
4. Knuffle Bunny (and to a lesser extent Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free) by Mo Williams Who doesn’t love a story about a child and their beloved stuffed animal. After a trip to the laundromat, Knuffle Bunny gets left behind but Trixie can’t talk yet so she does all kinds of things (my favorite being “She went boneless”) to try to get her daddy to understand.
5. Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus also by Mo Williams A raucous read that will have your kids screaming (maybe not such a good thing but I still maintain that it’s better than boring any day!) “NO” as the pigeon begs to drive the bus.
6. Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car by Eileen Christelow There is a cadence to this book and once you find it, you will LOVE reading it to your kids. Play around with it, you know you can do a great crocodile voice.
Best Books for Girls (please pretty please with sugar on top don’t go all p.c. on me for calling something a “girl” or “boy” book. I’ve found, in my humble opinion, that the following appeal more to my daughter than my son, enough said)
7. Ladybug Girl by David Soman (also Ladybug Girl at the Beach and Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, I can’t really pick my favorite, I love them all for different reasons) Lulu has her fears and insecurities but when she becomes LADYBUG GIRL she can do anything. I love this empowering tale for girls about overcoming your fears.
8. Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O’Connor (a close second would be Fabulous Fashion Boutique) We are a Fancy Nancy family but this one is by far my favorite. Nancy thinks she wants one kind of dog but discover that maybe the “fanciest” dog is not right for her family. This is Nancy at her very best!
Best Books for Boys (see above)
9. Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury This hilarious book where the pig is the bad guy will have your little boy grinning, especially when the TNT comes out to blow up the wolves fortress.
Or on the same theme…
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith Hilarious story from the wolves’ point of view.
10. Fix it Duck by Jez Alborough All of the “Duck” books are great but this one has to be my favorite. A great rhyming book that is so fun to read. There’s a leak in the roof (or so Duck thinks) and he’s going to fix it. But nothing good can come from Duck trying to fix things. It’s a great read again and again.
Great Books for Big and Little Alike (ages 4+)
11. Take Me Out of the Bathtub (and other silly dilly songs) by Alan Katz (the follow up book I’m Still Here in the Bathtub is equally good if not a little better!) Time to get silly. This book takes your favorite songs like Take Me Out to the Ballgame or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and sets silly songs to those tunes. Your kids won’t care if your singing voice isn’t quite up to par.
12. Magic Hat by Mem Fox (Sleepy Bears is a close second for me): This author has written so many great books and it’s hard to choose just one but this one stands out from the rest. A magic hat floats through town and makes magic wherever it lands. The illustrations are engaging and the story will captivate both adult and child.
13. Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Book by Lauren Child I’m not a fan of the Charlie and Lola books (sorry!) but this one is a gem! When Herb falls asleep on a book of fairy tales he finds himself trapped. As soon as he finds himself out of one story, he gets trapped in the next.
14. Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman A listen to the audio reading of this book is almost a must to get the voices just right of the witch, mummy, ghost, vampire, and bat but I have faith that you will nail them without the help. Once you do, you will love reading this book over and over no matter what the time of year.
15. The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka (I love this author and luckily he’s prolific and writes for many age levels. My 9 year old loves the Time Warp Trio series right now). As I wrap up this list, I see some themes running through it, humor and a heavy emphasis on fairy tales and when the two combine as this author does so well,it’s pure magic.
JUST READ IT!