The kids are finally sound asleep in their own beds. You wearily climb into your little corner of heaven where you encounter a rare life form- a prized species with an unfathomably soft pelt, almost never seen by parental eyes. Some call it a “pillow,” but, to you, it is an angelic apparition that whispers into your ear until you are under sleep’s spell. Then the crying starts. You bid goodbye to your fairy god-pillow and gaze longingly at the lonely mattress as you march off to appease the screaming tyrant who has waged war on your sanity with no armistice in sight.
If this scene hits a bit too close to home, and the prospect of spending another night crammed in your child’s crib is enough to have you crying for momma, try introducing a new bedtime ritual to the family- a more peaceful one that might even let you sleep in your own bed for the entire night: daily bedtime stories.
Not only will this help you establish a regular routine that helps children fall asleep faster (and with less fuss), but it will allow you to soothe your child to sleep while engaging in some good old fashioned literary bonding. (That’s right, put the smartphone down. Facebook does not need to know you can read aloud at a second grade reading level.) I still remember the stories I grew up hearing, and no matter how goofy, sad, or downright outlandish, they still hold a special place in my heart. They may not light up like a GameBoy or BopIt, and no one is going to give you a virtual thumbs up for reading Little Red Riding Hood 73 times, but they will become part of your child’s values, imagination, and memories for years to come.
If you haven’t already inherited or bought a copy of these unique children’s books, find them at your local bookstore and get to reading!
The Frog and Toad Collection, Arnold Lobel: This book series is packed with humor and heartwarming tales of friendship. One or the other of the pair is always getting into mischief, eventually getting rescued by his best friend. No matter how deep the trouble or how different the two friends may be, they always end up back together again to take on the world. Charming illustrations give the series a vintage feel, but the lessons within are timeless.
Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein: Remember when you could be a poet and people would look at you like you were Bob Dylan, not a six-headed hydra with no direction in life and an apparently intimate relationship with the wacky weed? Well this book, and this author, sets the young mind free to explore its dreams, whether that’s to become a writer or a pirate on the high seas. I know it’s books like this that helped put the pen in my hand.
Are You My Mother?, P.D. Eastman: This book is just pure cute with a pinch of suspense. A baby bird hatches while his mother is off looking for food, so he decides to leave the nest to find his mother. An incredible journey ensues.
The Stinky Cheese Man, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith: Speaking of wacky weed, this book is one of the most imaginative, off-the-wall pieces of children’s literature you will ever encounter. In addition to the adventures of the stinky cheese man, this book tells other “fairly stupid tales,” that turn classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes into twisted modern fables, bizarrely and brilliantly illustrated.
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame: With a diverse cast of characters ranging from a mole to a badger, this touching novel is a mixture of mysticism, morality, camaraderie, and adventure.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter: This is the chronicle of a mischievous little bunny who can’t stay out of Mr. McGregor’s garden, and a mother who does her best to keep her little angel out of trouble. Sound familiar? I knew you’d like it! There are now countless adaptations of the story in several media forms. Box sets of Peter Rabbit books and animated series are available across the world.
The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams: This is another rabbit with the same literary trajectory as the adventures of our friend Peter. First published in the 1920’s, this children’s novel has stood the test of time and has been republished, adapted, and transformed into an animated classic for nearly 100 years. The beautiful message it imparts about true friendship, love, hope, and resilience is definitely one that will stick with both you and your kids. You won’t get through it without crying, but the tears are well worth the read. Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending! It is a children’s book, after all.
Read the classics already? Try these old school and modern tales that both teach and entertain:
Skippyjon Jones (Judy Schachner); Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak); Splat the Cat (Rob Scotton); Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle); Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown); Guess How Much I Love You (Sam McBratney); Llama, Llama, Red Pajama (Anna Dewdney); The Rainbow Fish (Marcus Pfister).