Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Five Favorite Bedtime Books for Toddlers

At this point it is common knowledge that daily reading to children has many benefits. Like many parents, I include reading in the bedtime ritual (although we do read at other times of the day, too.) Now that my daughter is approaching her 2nd birthday, we've amassed quite a collection of board books, not to mention the ones we've borrowed from the library. I've spent countless hours reading many of the same books over and over again, and I've found there are certain ones that, in addition to being favorites for my daughter, I also don't mind reading for the 100th time. Thus, I present my five favorite bedtime books for toddlers:

1.) Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

Admittedly, I first bought this book because a black cat is cleverly worked into most of the illustrations, I have such a cat, and my daughter adores cats. But the book has become one of my favorites for many reasons. First the obvious: it's educational, since each consecutive page features a certain number of objects, counting down from ten to one. The scenes are illustrated beautifully, with complex, naturalistic compositions, an array of intricate patterns and textures, and bursting with vivid, complimentary colors. And then, of course, there is the story: a little girl with huge eyes, wearing an oversized, yellow nightgown and clutching an even more oversized white teddy bear, being put to bed by her loving daddy. Melts the heart.

2.) The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

I love almost all of Sandra Boynton's books for toddlers. They are full of rhythmic rhymes, cute illustrations of animal characters, and lots of good old silliness. Boynton is why my daughter loves hippos. This book features a motley crowd of beasts aboard a cruise ship, preparing for bedtime. They put on jammies, take a bubble bath (all together in one, big tub) and brush their teeth. Even though I've read it at least a hundred times, I'm still amused when all the animals go up on the deck to rigorously exercise in their pajamas! (I guess they like to sleep all sweaty.) In the end, the rocking of the boat on the sea lulls them to sleep. This book balances humor and tranquility, which is perfect for bedtime. It is simply a great book to end the day.

3.) Counting Kisses by Karen Katz
This is one of those books that gets you to do something other than just read the words out loud. Namely, kiss the heck out of your kid. In the story, the baby is crying, and so the entire family (including the dog and cat) take turns placing kisses on various parts of the baby's body, counting down from ten to one. Inevitably, I end up acting out the book as we read. Sometimes my husband has joined in and we take turns kissing our daughter. Sometimes my daughter kisses me or even kisses herself instead of me kissing her. I've also read it to children I babysit, and the children have taken turns kissing each other's noses, ears, and toes. It's not a book I'd read every single night (that would get a bit tedious.) But its super fun to engage in this shower of affection about once a week.

4.) Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

This is by far my daughter's favorite bedtime book. For months and months she continues to pull it off the shelf to read over and over again. And for good reason. It's hilarious! There are hardly any words in this book; the story is mostly told playful, colorful illustrations. Basically the gorilla (and his little friend the mouse who drags along a banana on a string) steals the zookeeper's keys and lets out several animals. They all follow the clueless zookeeper back to his house, into his bedroom, and curl up for the night. But the zookeeper's wife gets wise and returns all the animals to the zoo. Except, of course, the crafty gorilla (and his sidekick mouse) who manage to sneak out again and ultimately spend the night in the couple's bed. This book is just a very fun way to develop an understanding of pictorial narrative.

5.) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd

An oldie, but a goodie. It features simple, repeating rhymes, lots of clearly-communicated vocabulary, and a cute, little bunny getting ready for bed. But what is best about this book is seeing how elements of the room we are in change from page to page. Slowly, the lights dim. Two kitten play in various ways before finally curling up to sleep. The old lady rabbit in the rocking chair disappears. After the stars and even the air, we run out of things to say goodnight to, and enter into soft darkness and silence. What a peaceful way to drift off to sleep.

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