8 Great Bedtime Books

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, books, bedtime stories, kids age 5-8

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Today we welcome guest Pam Allyn to share with us a short list of her favorite bedtime stories for bigger kids—ones that help guide them into good sleep with independence, imagination, and serenity.

Pam Allyn, a mom of two girls, is a children's literacy expert and advocate and the author of the inspirational and practical book for parents, teachers, and caregivers entitled What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child and all the Best Times to Read Them


"Bedtime, even for the most rugged of us, is often fraught with worry," says Allyn. "Bedtime stories can alleviate the strain of that separation and provide comfort to the child entering that evening journey. And they can also provide one last giggle before bedtime, one last kernel of knowledge, one great image to carry our children off to sleep."

Here are Allyn's picks for eight great books that will help children enter the bedtime journey with boldness and delight:

Bedtime for Frances, Russell and Lilian Hoban

Even for the older child, this book never fails to elicit huge beaming grins of understanding when Frances traipses into her parents’ room for the umpteenth time. Yet there are wise lessons to be learned here, and as always, Frances works through her fears and with the help of her ever-patient but very funny parents is able to manage bedtime. Don’t hesitate to read books that look “younger” to your 5-8 year olds. The comfort of a much-loved book from the earlier years (such as The Napping House or Goodnight Moon) may really do the trick to settle down your jumpy child and remind him he really does love to sleep!

Edward and the Pirates, David McPhail

Something to talk with your child about is how bedtime, and nighttime in general, is a great opportunity to explore the paradise of one’s own imagination. Not every bedtime book has to be lulling or softly soothing. For some of our readers, an adventurous tale of an imaginative little boy is just the medicine to send our dreamers off to sleepland and all the wondrous stories their own minds can create. McPhail’s book gives us Edward, a reader and a dreamer who learns a lot about pirates.

Look to the North: A Wolf Pup’s Diary, Jean Craighead George

We most often think of fiction as the genre to read before bedtime, but nonfiction can be equally if not more appealing to the curious child whose mind is racing throughout the day. This lovely book by Jean Craighead George is chock full of terrific wolf facts, but told tenderly and with great care and respect for the animal world. The perfect bedtime reading for the inquisitive child who will then go to sleep counting wolf pups instead of sheep.

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, Carmen Agra Deedy

I know, I know! A cockroach, you say? But kids LOVE this book, and Carmen comes from a rich tradition of storytelling that makes this book a special treat to read right before bedtime.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Betty MacDonald

Possibly the most comforting chapter book of all time, stories of Mrs. Piggle can be read over and over. She is magical, funny, and endlessly resourceful. The books all have a predictable pattern that is very soothing for the bedtime read and endlessly amusing. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has a cure for everything, even the “Never Want to Go to Bedders”!

The Relatives Came, Cynthia Rylant

This great story from Cynthia Rylant is about a family’s summer trip by car to visit their relatives. There is a wonderful line in this book that reads: “It was hard to fall asleep with all that new breathing in the house.” And yet, even so, the images of the extended family sleeping all over the place are sure to evoke a peaceful smile from your child as the darkness settles in.

Sideways Stories from the Wayside School, Louis Sachar

This school is kooky and silly, and lots of strange things happen. A great distraction for your bedtime worrier. What’s nice is that each chapter can stand alone, so if you want to keep the bedtime story ritual to a manageable length, these stories are for you.

Sweet Corn: Poems, James Stevenson

If your child gets really tired right at bedtime, don’t pull out a thick chapter book. Poems are a far better ribbon to tie up the odds and ends of the day. They are small and compact, but rich with meaning. This collection is simply illustrated, and Stevenson’s observations are quiet and illuminating.

Thanks, Pam. This is a great list to kick off a summer full of good bedtime reading.

Add to this list! What are your big kid's favorite bedtime stories?

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