I believe in bedtime stories. I read to my eldest daughter until she was nine years old, and I would still read to her now if she asked. During our pre-bed reading sessions, we progressed from board books to chapter books, and enjoy calm, quiet times with good stories and great memories.
I’ve continued the bedtime reading tradition with my toddler twins, although admittedly it is much harder. I can’t sit with them in my lap like I did with her. They are much more apt to leave me and wander around the room. They are still in their cribs, so I can’t sit on one of their beds yet either. So I now plop myself on the floor, between the two cribs, and they sit in their beds and watch and listen — most of the time.
Reading is part of the bedtime routine: Clean up faces and hands, change diapers, put on pajamas, brush teeth, read three stories and tuck into bed. They know it, and they’ve known it for a while. And because of that routine, they already ask for certain books: Curious George and Clifford and Little Bear and shape books and color books and all the good ones that I don’t mind repetitively reading night after night.
The last book of our bedtime story session is always “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown. I started that tradition with my oldest, and it worked so well that I had to do it with the twins. At one point in their short lives, it became apparent to one twin that this was always the last book before bed. When I read the first line in the book, he would start to cry in anticipation. He’s OK with it now because this book is such a favorite. He gets very excited when he sees it and says “My Moon! My Moon!”
Reading the same book every night does not have to be boring. My husband and I may have the lines memorized by now, but it doesn’t matter because so do our toddler twins. I prompt them to fill in the last words of each page, which makes it a fun. Sometimes, I sing the story to them. And although it’s a little harder with two kids in two cribs, I try a tradition I started with my daughter: On each two-page color illustration in the book, we have to find the little mouse. The mouse is always in a different spot. It’s like a little game at storytime.
Of course, “Goodnight Moon” isn’t the only bedtime book worth reading, even if it is tops in our house. We have other favorites in the reading rotation.
“When the World is Ready for Bed” by Gillian Shields has some really adorable watercolor illustrations by Anna Currey, and is a very easy rhyming read that the kids love to hear. We have the board book version. The story is about three little bunnies getting ready for bed and their routine, which is perfect to instill in little ones.
We also like “The Night Night Book” by Marianne Richmond. The book is another rhyming story that says “night night” to many things, similar to “Goodnight Moon.”
The “Good Night Our World” series of board books is also in our regular reading list. The series features bedtime books focusing on a place, such as a special state, city or location. Our favorites include titles like “Good Night Vermont,” “Good Night Farm” and “Good Night Country Store.”
Whatever book you choose as your signature “goodnight” story, it will surely became part of a child’s memory. My oldest daughter still has her original copy of “Goodnight Moon” on her bookshelf and likely never part with it. I hope someday she reads it to her own children, as well as many other of our favorites, and continues the bedtime tradition we started 10 years ago.