Updated: Sep 25, 2019
Magic tricks, magic spells, magical moments- magic can come in so many forms. But in my humble opinion, there is nothing more magical than a child discovering a wonderful, new book for the first time. I never get tired of seeing little eyes light up and sparkle, drawn into the magical world come to life in the pages of a good book, particularly when it's a bedtime story.
Now, bedtime at our house is the liveliest, most chaotic time for our family. As the kids frantically work themselves up into a frenzy in their last-ditch attempt to battle the inevitable trek to bed, and we quietly contain the bubble of excitement at the thought of freedom close at hand, we round up the wiggling little ones and herd them off to bed. Armed with hugs and kisses and promises for new adventures tomorrow, we tuck our freshly bathed offspring into bed and pull out every parent’s secret weapon - the bedtime story.
While the options today for bedtime stories are far too many to read in even ten lifetimes, in my opinion, there’s nothing quite like the tried and true classics to help your kids cross over into the quiet calm of night and the alluring pull and promise of a gentle, dreamy sleep.
That’s the thing about classics. They never get old. Ever. Even if you read them, sing them, or act them out with jazz hands every night and twice on Tuesdays, somehow, the predictability of knowing exactly what the next page will hold is quietly comforting in this unpredictable world.
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Beautifully written with imaginative vocabulary, witty charm, and timeless themes that all children can relate to, these lovable English classics can transport your children to a realm of new wonder, no matter where in the world you call home. And as most of these titles are now available in downloadable, digital format, you can easily access these much-loved books for your kids from literally anywhere.
So, without further ado, and in no particular order (in true, Mama-fashion, we love you all equally), here are our top 10 picks for timeless, children’s bedtime stories that your child just can't miss reading!
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Children and adults have been giggling and guffawing since 1963 at Amelia Bedelia and her zany antics as she navigates life literally and hilariously. I've never forgotten watching Amelia Bedelia "draw the drapes and dress the chicken", as ordinary instructions take on a whole new meaning in Amelia's world. You and your kids will enjoy this highly spirited and entertaining book, and have a blast watching her get into the funniest situations through the author's brilliant play on words. In addition, just in time for a new generation of readers is the New York Times-bestseller Amelia Bedelia chapter books featuring Amelia Bedelia as a comical, young girl, created in 2016 by the original author's nephew, Herman Parish, in a convenient 10-book box set.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Who can forget the incredible adventure of Max and the awe-inspiring illustrations of the wild monsters who live in his imagination? Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year, this book will ignite your child's imagination and captivate them as they follow Max's journey from his bedroom into the wild world of mystical monsters. With it's simple yet expressive writing and fantastical artwork, this book is the ultimate bedtime story that your kids will beg you to read over and over. Plus, with the 2009 Where the Wild Things Are movie now available on DVD, the story has come to life and your kids can enjoy the adventure outside of bedtime for added fun.
I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
This classic story will make you want to hold your children a little longer and squeeze them a little tighter, as the book captures the beautiful bond between a mother and her growing child and the poignancy of life coming full circle. Its timeless words will touch your child's heart as they recognize the warmth of a mother's love, and its catching refrain "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be" will live on in their memory long after the book is closed. I dare you not to cry. I double dare you.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
If you’re looking for a book that will teach your children the all-important lesson of generosity and unselfishness, The Giving Tree will do this and so much more. This unforgettable tale of a boy and a loving apple tree that provides him with everything from delicious apples to his first playground will captivate your kids as they watch the apple tree lovingly give and give and give to make this boy happy until there is no more.
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
The ancient tale of Strega Nona or “Grandma Witch” and her magic pot of pasta will have your kids captivated from the first page, because what kid doesn’t love a good bowl of pasta? As they watch the ambitious Big Anthony bring disaster to the Medieval town as he tries to work the famed “magic” pot, they will learn the all-important lesson of following instructions carefully. With its lively characters and enchanting imagery, this recipe for disaster will have your kids giggling for more with every page. And if your kids enjoy this book, there is a whole volume of Strega Nona tales, entitled The Magical World of Strega Nona - a Treasury, including the original Strega Nona story as well as 5 more stories, including Strega Nona Meets Her Match, Strega Nona: Her Story, Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, Strega Nona’s Harvest, and Strega Nona’s Gift.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
“In an old house in Paris
that was covered with vines
lived twelve little girls
in two straight lines
the smallest one was Madeline.”
No child can resist the pull of this charming tale, as twelve little girls in matching yellow dresses with matching wide brim hats and our courageous heroine Madeline march out of the pages and into your child’s heart. A tale of playful mischief and daily adventure at a girls’ boarding school in Paris, your children will love the whimsical illustrations of Paris and listen eagerly to its rhythmic verses to see what Madeline will do next. Named a Caldecott Honor Book, winner of the Caldecott Medal, and a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year, Madeline has been capturing the hearts of young readers for over 75 years. With five sequels, the adventure doesn’t have to end with the last page of this book, as your children can go on to follow Madeline in all of her adventures.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
What child hasn’t had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Your kids will immediately relate to this book from the title page and no matter how old they are or what sort of problem they may have had, reading about Alexander will always put things into perspective and will cheer them up too. Teaching the all-important lesson that sometimes life is not fair and that there will be days when everything does seem to go terribly wrong is an invaluable part of growing up, and this charming book will help your kids see that in a whole new light.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
“If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.”
No matter how many times you read this book to your kids, they will giggle in delight at the silliness of this little mouse and his big demands! For over 30 years, children have been listening in wonder as this bossy mouse charms his way into getting what he wants, beginning with a cookie which leads to so much more! And if your kids enjoy this, they will love the whole "If You Give..." series, entitled Fun With Mouse & Friends featuring little animals with big personalities.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
No list would be complete without a beloved tale from Dr. Seuss, and while it's hard to pick just one, Oh, the Places You'll Go tops our list of Dr. Seuss favorites. What sets this book apart from the crowd is its timeless message of finding success despite life's inevitable ups and downs, described through hilarious imagery and memorable lines like "With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street". Perfect for any age and phase in life, from graduating Kindergarten to graduating college, kids will gain confidence to face whatever life throws their way. What's more is that as a parent who has gone through much of life already, you will relate to many scenes in this book and will take heart that you are not alone! And if you're anything like me, you'll seriously consider splurging on the entire Dr. Seuss box , including 20 hardback classic favorites from the king of rhyme himself, including The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Pictures by Clement Hurd
What child's bookshelf would be complete without the tell-tale book with the red and green cover? A perfect, first bedtime story, Goodnight Moon's quiet, rhyming words and alternating pages of full color images and simple ink drawings will captivate little ones, as they feel its quiet magic pull them in. The simplicity of its words and familiar bedroom objects against the softly lit room are sure to lull your little ones to sleep just like the story's little bunny. As baby's first book, you will point out the simple objects like a red balloon and a tiny mouse, and as your children grow, they proudly point out the same red balloon and tiny mouse while reciting the words with you, making this book the ultimate bedtime classic for years to come.
Did we miss any of your favorites? What classic bedtime stories do you read and reread to your children? Let us know in the comments below!