Bedtime books have been a part of our nighttime ritual since my son was an infant, but the older he gets, the more important they’ve become.
It’s something he looks forward to — something he negotiates for more of. And now that he’s in the early stages of reading, honing his word-recognition skills, this burst of bedtime book love couldn’t be more perfect.
(That, and it’s an excuse to snuggle up together.)
So if you’re looking to bulk up your children’s book collection, or maybe you’re looking for some good books to give for Christmas, all of these come highly recommended by my 4-year-old.
Here are 22 of his favorite bedtime books that we come back to night after night:
Favorite Bedtime Books 1 of 26
Click through for our tried-and-true book recommendations for bedtime...
Sweet, Love-Filled Books 2 of 26
First up, here are my personal favorites to read at night — all filled with love and sweet messages, with a dose of comfort and insight. I like to think they'll give him sweeter dreams.
Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You 3 of 26
This book. I actually teared up reading it in a bookstore, and so I knew it deserved a place in our nighttime book rotation. It's one of those books that says everything you feel and want to tell your kids, all wrapped up in one simple and beautiful book.
Buy from Amazon, $17.19
Zen Shorts 4 of 26
Zen Shorts might be my favorite children's book on the shelf, and luckily my son's a big fan as well. He might not like it for the same reasons — for the subtle lessons on kindness, selflessness, and forgiveness — but it's the type of book that I hope settles into his brain during sleep.
Buy from Amazon, $13.74
On the Night You Were Born 5 of 26
Basically any book by Nancy Tillman is a top bedtime book choice. On especially snuggly nights, we like to read this book and reminisce about our first days together.
Buy from Amazon, $7.19
The Kissing Hand 6 of 26
My son has a history of separation issues with preschool/daycare, and long breaks from school make it so much harder to get back into a tear-free groove. So if we're heading back to preschool after a 4- or 5-day break, The Kissing Hand is a sweet way to calm his jitters.
Buy from Amazon, $14.74
You Are My I Love You 7 of 26
Another sweet book to express love and closeness right before bed — which, I'm hoping, seeps into his thoughts and dreams.
Buy from Amazon, $6.29
Classic Bedtime Books 8 of 26
And here are some classic choices that seem to be universal kid pleasers.
Harold and the Purple Crayon 9 of 26
Here's a simple quiet-time book that kids have loved for generations. Can't go wrong with Harold.
Buy from Amazon, $6.29
The Story of Ferdinand 10 of 26
My little boy has always reminded me of Ferdinand — preferring a quiet activity by himself to rough-housing with a group of kids. He's an observer, my boy. And so I'll often read him this bedtime book to show him that he's perfectly normal the way he is. And that as long as he's happy, I won't push him to be anything he isn't comfortable being.
Buy from Amazon, $3.99
Blueberries for Sal 11 of 26
Even though this book is clearly written in another time (Sal's mom is planning to can blueberries for winter in very '50s-style clothes, and lets her little boy wander around a bear-inhabited mountain rather than helicoptering over him), something about it still holds up. It happens to be one of our favorite books to read, igniting just enough quiet introspection to help him fall asleep.
Buy from Amazon, $13.63
The Velveteen Rabbit 12 of 26
This is one of our longer bedtime books, so it's saved for those nights when the bath/PJs/teeth routine goes quickly. I honestly love reading it because I remember loving it as a little kid — even having my own Velveteen Rabbit, which I cherished.
Buy from Amazon, $12.23
Owl Moon 13 of 26
As a writer, I appreciate well-written children's books. And this one is stunning.
Buy from Amazon, $13.72
The Mitten 14 of 26
Jan Brett books are among some of our very favorites, but The Mitten is #1 in our house. All of her books are so intricately illustrated that they must spark something creative and imaginative in kids. (Who knows? Maybe it'll lead to better dreams!)
Buy from Amazon, $7.19
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie 15 of 26
We have three books in the popular series — If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (the original), If You Give a Pig a Pancake, and If You Bring a Mouse to School. On nights when we have a little more time, we might read them as a complete set. But even if we only have time for one book, he'll often choose one of these.
Buy the entire "If You Give" set of 5 books from Amazon, $23.97
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! 16 of 26
Much like Zen Shorts and Wherever You Are, this is another book that I want to ingrain into my son's brain — filled with wisdom, insight, and life truths. It's a classic for a reason.
Buy from Amazon, $15.26
Fun, Entertaining Books 17 of 26
And here are some of the more entertaining books that we read at bedtime — which are especially fun to read...
The Sleepy Little Alphabet 18 of 26
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was certainly on repeat for toddler bedtimes, but we've moved on to a similar yet different ABC book. It's cute, catchy, and has plenty of sight words for beginner reading.
Buy from Amazon, $13.76
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site 19 of 26
In the same vein, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site is like a bigger-kid version of Goodnight Moon. It has a calming, soothing tone with stunning illustrations — perfect for bedtime.
Buy from Amazon, $10.19
Nighttime Ninja 20 of 26
This book isn't exceptionally text-heavy, so it's the perfect choice for those nights when everyone is pooped. But what it lacks in words, it makes up for with imagination — which might be even better for dreamland preparation.
Buy from Amazon, $13.98
The Dark 21 of 26
I bought this book because my son recently developed an "afraid of the dark" complex, and I wanted a subtle way to ease his anxieties about the scary, scary dark. And this book is actually perfect. It's fun to read, engaging (especially for scared kids), and leaves him with a sense of friendship for the always-present dark.
Buy from Amazon, $13.22
Pete the Cat Series 22 of 26
We fell in love with Pete for his chill vibes and groovy message, and the books just keep coming. These are definitely some of the more fun bedtime books to read together.
Buy from Amazon, $10.53
When Dinosaurs Came with Everything 23 of 26
For one day only, dinosaurs come with everything. Signs read "Buy a dozen donuts, get a free dinosaur," movie theaters yell out, "Wanna dinosaur with that popcorn?", and a doctor checkup ends with not a sticker, but a dino. (Shots will get you two.) It's a cute, imaginative story that we love.
Buy from Amazon, $13.96
Emeraldalicious 24 of 26
Remember how my son doesn't discriminate between "boy things" and "girls things"? (Or at least not yet, anyway.) Well that applies to books too, with Pinkalicious being one of his favorite series. There are plenty of Pinkalicious books out there, but we're really digging Emeraldalicious right now — a story about keeping our planet clean and beautiful.
Buy from Amazon, $14.07
Piggie Pie! 25 of 26
I'm a sucker for books with character voices and dramatic readings — and Piggie Pie has plenty of that. It's about a mean lady named Gritch the Witch who's looking for a bunch of pigs to make Piggy Pie. But the pigs all band together to trick the witch — leading her right to The Big Bad Wolf. The mixing of fairytales and songs with a funny story to boot? Little kids love it.
Buy from Amazon,$6.26
Press Here // Tap the Magic Tree 26 of 26
If we're having a hard time dragging him away from electronics, these books are a nice bedtime compromise. Each page is interactive, asking the kids to do something — whether it's tap 5 times on the yellow dot, or gently rub the leaves on a tree. They're so popular that he'll often request an encore!
What are some of YOUR favorite bedtime books to read?