Reading Rainbow — Our Favorite Nighttime Stories

If you have children, you probably know that having a good bedtime routine is key for helping them fall asleep. Reading just before bed is a great way to help calm your little one, especially in this day and age where technology seems to dominate everything we do, making distractions an inevitable part of everyday life that can easily keep us awake at night.

Reading to your child before bed is not only a great way to help them drift peacefully into dreams, but is also a bonding experience that boosts intelligence while attaching a positive association to books. More than likely, it’ll make your child a lover of stories, and a future lover of books for years to come — I can’t wait until my daughter, Rainbow, starts reading Harry Potter!

There are many books Rainbow and I love, but these below are our absolute favorites just before bedtime. I’m especially fond of these particular books because they tell clever stories and teach your toddler lessons simultaneously:

Speaking of lessons, I love the I Can Read French books by Mary Risk because they all break down English and French pronunciation in a way that is easy for children learn. It’s easier for children to absorb and pronounce words at a younger age, which is what makes these books even more beneficial to read before bed, a pivotal time for knowledge absorption. Children’s brains are like a sponges — it’s incredible! I believe that teaching them other languages early on makes learning fun, and may even help later on in life during a high school French class. Some great ones I love are Goodnight Everyone and Puppy Finds A Friendof the series. (Plus, you might even find that you’re teaching yourself a new language too).

Good-Night Owl! by Pat Hutchins has been a worldwide favorite story for kids and parents for over a decade, and continues to keep everyone in the family amused with its whimsical storyline. There are many nights that Rainbow refuses to go to bed, and this is one of the books I’ll read to her then because it includes the story of a vibrant owl who can’t seem to sleep. I can tell she subconsciously learns to appreciate sleep. Plus, it’s funny and has a surprise at the end that always leaves us giggling (and, usually for Rainbow, yawning).

Many of the kids I know love stories about animals, and Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown is another favorite on Rainbow’s bookshelf. What makes this book really special are the colorful illustrations that give the illusion of animals jumping right out of the book. The book is in rhyme so when I read it, it’s almost like singing. Books that rhyme are also great for helping your child learn to read and associate letters with sounds. Plus, the rhythm sends Rainbow to bed dreaming of all the sleepy animals in the barn.

The children books that hold a special place in my heart are the ones with seemingly simple storylines that your child can understand (but in reality go much deeper), and detailed illustrations that help spark imagination. Though Guess How Much I Love You, written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, is not as colorful as Big Red Barn, it is a beautiful book that’ll remind you of the widely known Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (another one of my favorites!). The illustrations in this book match the dreamy feel of the sweet story of a rabbit’s expansive love for a hare. I believe this book has helped Rainbow appreciate animals and understand that all living things have feelings — something I value immensely.

Author and illustrator Kevin Henkes’ Kitten’s First Full Moon is the story of a kitten who thinks the big beautiful moon is a bowl of milk. The book follows a curious kitten around as it tries to reach the giant nighttime moon and gives children a more positive outlook on the once ever-so-scary night. This is another book that always makes my daughter smile as I show her the pictures of the kitten licking at the moon, and puts her in a good mood just before she falls asleep.

Many of my other mom-friends are always helpful with recommendations for books that have delighted Rainbow to sleep, which parents know can be very difficult for toddlers. Other than friends, sites like Parents.com and RedTri.com are great places to get a full list of other great nighttime reads. Try out one (or, if your child’s like Rainbow, three) of these five books tonight and send your little one off to dreamland sweet and sound!

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