The Best Bedtime Stories for Kids

33 Min Read | By Liam Porter

Last Modified 31 March 2023   First Added 9 December 2019

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Better sleep means a better you, and that goes for kids too. After a good night’s sleep, they’ll feel brighter and ready for all kinds of mischief. The only trouble is, that getting young children off to sleep in the first place isn’t always that easy. Bedtime stories are a great way to do it. So here we’ve identified the best bedtime stories for kids and split them into different age groups, and reading abilities. With a mix of exciting subjects and styles, you’re sure to find the perfect piece of literature.

Classic bedtime stories for children

To start, let’s take a look at the best classic bedtime stories for kids. These are mainstays in the bedtime story world – often creating a sense of nostalgia and reminding those reading the story of their own childhood. Young children often love hearing about their parents as youngsters, and this can be a great way to get them settled and ready to listen before bed. It’s likely you’ll know plenty of these already so feel free to skip ahead if you’re looking for something new.


1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Don’t be put off by the monster’s theme. This is a magical tale of adventure and whimsy about a little boy called Max who sails to the island of the Wild Things and becomes their king. It has a great plot, and a happy ending, and has proved hugely popular with millions of young children worldwide.

2. Pajama Time! by Sandra Boyton

As you can probably guess from the title, this fun board book for very small kids is aimed at getting them in their ‘jim jams’. It gets them in the right frame of mind for bed whilst being an entertaining, appropriate read.

3. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss books are tried and tested children’s classics and this is his first and best known. Basically, it’s about a crazy cat in a silly hat causing chaos in all sorts of fun and inventive ways. Especially ideal for kids from 5 to 7 who will love the madness and mayhem.

4. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

These tales are over 100 years old. However, their colourful descriptions, fascinating characters and exotic locations are still guaranteed to enthral and delight the kids of today. For added novelty value, tell them that these are the stories their great, great, grandmother might have read.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

From The BFG to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s books have entertained generations of kids and show no signs of falling off. This one features a quick-witted fox running rings around some dopey farmers and is great to read out nice and loud.

6. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

A traditional picture book, where the story is told more through the images on the pages than the words. This simple tale about a zookeeper and a gorilla is perfect for very young children.

7. The Moomins by Tove Jansson

Oddly entertaining plot-driven stories about small creatures that look a little bit like hippos but walk on two legs. These tall tales from Finland are as enjoyable as they are unusual.

The best bedtime stories for babies (0 - 12 months)

There’s a little debate in the parenting world about when to start reading bedtime stories to your little one. That said, identify that reading to your baby from birth is a thoroughly valuable exercise – both for you and your new arrival. Reading bedtime stories to babies helps create a loving bond and also teaches communication. By the time babies reach their first birthday, they’ll have all the sounds needed to speak their native – so anything that can help this process is worth considering! To help, here are the best bedtime stories for babies:

  1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  2. A Recipe for Bedtime by Peter Bently
  3. Dr Seuss’s Sleep Book by Dr Seuss
  4. My Mum / My Dad by Anthony Browne
  5. Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long
  6. Goodnight, Gorilla
  7. I’m Not Sleepy
  8. Say Goodnight to the Sleepy Animals

Helpful tip – plenty of parents read their own books aloud to their little ones. This can help you tackle two birds with one stone, especially while your infant still sleeps in your room.

The best bedtime stories for toddlers (1 - 3-year-olds)

Toddlers have incredible imaginations. They’re at the stage where the world is just starting to make sense, while still being wide open for magic and fantasy. Some of the best bedtime stories for toddlers are those with repetition and rhyming patterns – helping them learn and practice the building block sounds that make up their native language.

  1. Dave the Lonely Monster
  2. Elmer’s Walk
  3. Sam and Dave Dig A Hole
  4. Pajama Time!
  5. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  6. The Tiger Who Came To Tea
  7. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt
  8. Zog

The best bedtime stories for preschoolers (three to five-year-olds)

This is the age where, as parents, you can really start to instil a love of books within your children. It’s when your little ones reach this age that stories become less about simple sounds and repetition. Instead, you’ll start seeing more characters and more detailed plotlines. This can really help you and your youngster to bond. You can put on silly voices and allow them to do the same, helping them to start to recognise words and sentences, at the same time as having fun. Here are our favourite bedtime stories for preschoolers:

  1. The Robot Bedtime Book
  2. If I Could Not Cry
  3. And That Was the Oddest of Things
  4. The Roald Dahl Collection
  5. The Dinky Donkey by Craig Smith
  6. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
  7. Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson
  8. Oi Duck Billed Platypus by Kes Gray

The best bedtime stories for KS1 (five to eight-year-olds)

It’s between these ages that your child’s reading ability will really start to improve. You’ll also likely see a much wider variation on their bookshelf at this time. That’s because when they’re reading by themselves, or reading to you, they’ll need simpler books. When you are reading to them, they’ll want something more complex. That’s because their brains can understand much greater detail than their reading ability caters for. So, at this age, we recommend having a range of different ability bedtimes stories to ensure you’ve covered all angles.

1. The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde (retold by Fiona Waters)

A beautiful retelling of an important 1888 classic. Away for some years, our giant returns to find his garden full of happy children, delighting in its beauty. Unhappy with this development, he quickly erects a sign: Trespassers will be prosecuted. The giant however becomes even sadder than the children themselves when he discovers that now it is always Winter. How can he make the Spring return, and can anything prompt him to change his own heart and mind? The imagery in this story I know gave me an early love of words: ‘The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver.’ An enriching tale, it speaks to the common, universal need to be able to open up our lives to others. ‘I have many beautiful flowers,’ the giant finally admits; ‘but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.’

 2. The Sea Tiger by Victoria Turnbull

The Sea Tiger is Oscar’s best friend, though also his only friend. They do everything together – explore the ocean, visit the sea circus, and even hitch a ride to the surface to look at the stars. But Oscar is not a Sea Tiger, and the Sea Tiger knows Oscar is going to need a new friend. This delicate story shows us a cautious and shy Oscar, used to observing and taking another’s lead. Through the Sea Tiger, he finds strength within himself to explore a new friendship. The lightness of touch in Turnbull’s illustrations makes for a beautifully soothing tale, perfect for sharing together.

3. The Dark by Lemony Snickett

Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark lives in the basement, and doesn’t visit Laszlo in his room. Until one night… it does. Follow Laszlo as he journeys into the dark … to face and conquer his fear. The tension of Snicket’s words is perfectly paired with Klassen’s deceptively simple yet beautiful pictures, in this truly unique picture book. Perfect for children who might want something a little spookier to dig into, or for encouraging those who struggle with that familiar fear of the dark to overcome it.

4. Wolves by Emily Gravett

A book within a book about what could happen if a story really were to come to life. Rabbit visits the library to ‘burrow’ a book. So absorbed is he in his reading that he fails to notice his companion during the journey home and walks right into trouble. With a darker comic twist about to emerge, readers will be reassured by the second, alternative ending, presenting a vegetarian wolf and the promise that no rabbits were eaten in the making of this book’. That said, whatever did happen to the copy that Rabbit borrowed? The library fine increases day by day…

5. Play Time by Julia Donaldson

Playtime (or even bedtime) will soon be bursting with creativity, as this book helps transform tales, old and new, into short plays for children to enjoy reading and acting out loud. Featuring old favourites such as The Billy Goat’s Gruff’ as well as more contemporary writing, there’s guaranteed to be something here for everyone. Accompanied with useful guidance on target age, length and characters, this collection makes the idea of having a go at this at home hugely accessible, and will bring great joy to both young and old(er!) alike!

6. Mr Majeika by Humphrey Carpenter

None of the Year Three pupils at St. Barty’s Primary are thrilled to find themselves back at school on a rainy Monday morning, after the Christmas holidays … that is until they see their new teacher Mr. Majeika whizz by the window on a magic carpet! Pandora, Melanie, the twins Thomas and Pete, and class-clown Hamish Bigmore soon discover that they are in for the most exciting school term ever. I first discovered these books myself in the school library, off the back of an ITV adaptation of the series starring Stanley Baxter. I was instantly hooked. Still, as magical as ever, you’ll find this is a great one to read with children just as their own reading skills are starting to emerge.

7. Josie Smith by Magdalene Nabb

Josie Smith, at five and three quarters, is unapologetically herself and brimming with ideas and schemes – even if these never seem to go quite to plan. There are three short stories to enjoy here, cataloguing Josie’s adventures as she gets a surprise for her mum’s birthday, runs away from home and steals a ginger cat … If your kids fall in love with Josie and her exploits, there’s a whole series to enjoy as she grows older, life grows more complicated and the stories grow steadily longer meaning your little ones will be able to develop, in all senses, alongside her.

8. The Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

Levi Pinfold’s Black Dog is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I’ve ever come across. Involving every member of the family in its tale about the Hope household, this is a heartwarming look at facing your fears; how when you really do this can make them so much smaller, and how they might even become something you come to love. ‘ “He doesn’t seem fierce at all now I really look at him,” said Mr Hope. The rest of the family agreed.

 9. The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak

You might be tempted to judge a book by its cover, and assume that The Book With No Pictures would be a rather boring one to read with young children. But here you’d be wrong! Star of the TV series The Office, B.J. Novak takes a playful approach to read aloud: Here is how books work: everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say. No matter what.’ Soon you’ll be shouting funny made-up words, spouting nonsensical phrases and delivering lines in a robot monkey’s voice. Your little ones will be in stitches in no time, as no doubt will you!

10. The Lonely Beast by Chris Judge

In this lovely little story, we’re introduced to The Beasts’ who are very, very rare. So rare in fact that there is only one in each country on the planet. They enjoy all manner of activities like walking in the snow, reading a good book, baking cakes and, of course, eating cake too! One particular Beast wakes up to find himself one day feeling suddenly very lonely, and so he sets out to do something about it. Over land and sea the Beast travels looking for a friend, but will he find one? And when he does, will it make him happy? Great for sharing and reading aloud, The Lonely Beast will have you doing the actions alongside our brave, black friend as he travels the world in search of what every one of us needs.

mum reading story to child

11. Mr Stink by David Walliams

A fresh new children’s writer to hit the shelves, David Walliams’ books have quickly become bestsellers. In the novel, Mr Stink, 12-year-old Chloe is intrigued by the local tramp but knows she shouldn’t talk to strangers (and suspects if she gets too close her eyes will well up with the smell!) But when Mr Stink finds himself in trouble, Chloe takes the plunge and hides him in the garden … This is a lovely story suitable for reading aloud to younger children, but there are also moral concerns here which could in a very natural way help older ones to think and speak about the judgements we can make of people, and of what lies beyond our own stereotypes.

12. Spells by Emily Gravett

Full of magic, this laugh-out-loud story has beautifully crafted pages of illustrations that you’ll simply love getting the chance to share. What Frog really wants is to be able to turn himself into a handsome prince, and with the tattered book of spells he’s just found, this seems just about to be possible. You’ll need to help Frog try and piece together the right spell from the torn pages of the book. And when some of the spells don’t quite work as intended, our Frog will be getting a little more than he bargained for!

13. The Snow Dragon by Vivian French

Set in a divided medieval world, the South ruled by ferocious Fire Dragons and the North by peaceful Snow Dragons, this beautifully illustrated story follows the adventure of a young boy who comes from the land in between that of the Twolegs. When the most royal Fire Dragon calls for the prophecies of ‘The Book’, he is keen to know if one day Fire Dragons will rule over the entire world. But he is not receiving the answer he had been hoping for… Upon hearing a Twoleg will seal his doom he takes out his violent anger on those of them who are left. Tuft escapes, and we follow his journey as he seeks out the last of the Snow Dragons in a desperate bid to restore peace.

14. Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne

A really interesting and insightful story allowing us – through words and pictures – into the perspectives of four different people as they take the same walk in the park. This is a book that will get children thinking about the opinions we form of people, how they as children might be able to see things in a refreshingly different way to grown-ups, and how the different lives we lead might make us behave quite differently from each other. It’s a great one too for trying out a different voice for each of the characters you meet: have fun sharing and reading this one aloud!

15. Singing to the Sun by Vivian French

This is a wonderfully crafted fairy tale with charming illustrations, making each page a real treat to share. A king obsessed with power marries a woman obsessed with wealth and here begins our magical tale. When their own young prince finds himself needing to seek out a bride, he stumbles upon a life-or-death test posed by a faraway king, the happy survivor of which will be rewarded with the king’s permission to marry one of his three daughters. With the help of a friendly jester, the prince is able to survive the challenge – but which princess will he choose, and will she choose him in return?

 16. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

Enigmatic yet oh so loveable, read about the adventures of one of the nation’s favourite bears: as Paddington, all the way from Darkest Peru, enters into his new life living in London with his adoptive family –  the Brown’s. He might be a bear but Paddington manages to capture the innocence of childhood, and of encountering the world anew through fresh eyes. Bringing back childhood memories of that unforgettable and sometimes befuddled bear, with his famous love of marmalade sandwiches – kept under his hat of course – you’ll treasure some daily reading time as you get to share this once again with your own children.

boy reading on a bed

The best bedtime stories for KS2 (eight to eleven-year-olds)

At this age, you’ll likely spend less time reading your child’s bedtime stories. Especially towards the ages of ten and eleven, your youngster will have their own favourite books and be able to read much more complex novels. If you’ve really instilled a love of reading, it may be that their reading age is beyond their actual age. In fact, at this age, it may well be above the national average for UK adults, which is, quite shockingly, a mere 9 years old. But just because they’re able to read more complicated prose, this doesn’t mean you should let them. Be aware that plenty of young adult fiction has moments that you might not deem suitable. That said, our list is comprised only of suitable topics, in line with the national curriculum for this age group.


1. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. How far had he walked? Nobody knows. Where did he come from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows.’ A great classic modern fairytale, The Iron Man opens as an enormous, mysterious being arrives in a small, unnamed town and proceeds to wreak havoc by consuming any metallic item in its path. But rather than try to understand it, the adults in the village hatch a plan to simply bury the giant creature. Overwhelmed by fear and anger, their reaction to the creature is fuelled by panic and selfishness. However, it is little Hogarth who works instead to understand the creature’s motives and create a solution that will bring about harmony for all. A beautiful tale of understanding and tolerance, this story is brimming with intrigue, mystery and suspense, but has a strong and human moral at its heart.

2. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

Set in Poland during the 1940’s Nazi invasion, The Silver Sword, based on true historical events, begins with Joseph, a Polish headmaster, arrested by the Gestapo and taken to a prison camp, from which he later escapes. But upon returning to Warsaw, Joseph finds his family gone (his wife has also been arrested, and the three children are in hiding) and their home destroyed. A paper knife (The Silver Sword), once belonging to his wife, now lies in the possession of a pickpocket called Jan. Joseph leaves, intending to follow his family to Switzerland, where he assumes they have fled. But Jan and The Silver Sword form the central thread of the story, as the boy befriends the three children and joins them in their journey in search of their parents. An exciting, tense and often exhilarating story, The Silver Sword follows one family’s challenging journey to safety, and finally back to each other.


3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

A truly magical book which children will never forget – a gift they will take with them into adulthood. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to stay at a big old house with an eccentric professor and accidentally stumble into Narnia through the back of a wardrobe – a frozen, snowy land in which it is always winter, but never Christmas’. This book is full of adventure and imagination, with great characters like Mr Tumnus the Faun, the icily terrifying White Witch and Aslan, the great and mysterious Lion. His arrival signals a great change in the land, as well as a great sacrifice. Deep and layered, as well as a real page-turner, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a wonderful introduction to The Chronicles of Narnia even though it is the second book in the series. It will leave you and your child eager to read the other six together!

4. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

I remember discovering Artemis Fowl soon after it was published (I was twelve), then later surreptitiously reading the eighth and final book of this sci-fi fantasy series in a shop (I was, er, twenty-three). Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl may inhabit a sprawling mansion on the outskirts of Dublin, but he is already primed for his first big money-making scheme: divest the fairy-folk of their pot of gold, by kidnapping a fairy and waiting for the ransom to arrive. He doesn’t bet upon Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance) Unit, who is to be assisted by technologically adept centaur Foaly, and a whole host of outlandishly unforgettable characters. This fast-paced, wise-cracking adventure, described by the author as Die Hard with fairies, is a guaranteed gripping read for young readers and any older ones…

5. The BFG by Roald Dahl

Don’t be fooled by his size! When Sophie is carried from her room in the middle of the night and taken to Giantland, she believes her cards are marked. However, more mousey than murderous, Sophie is in the good hands of her midnight captor, the BFG. His fellow giants, on the other hand, are not as friendly and have a penchant for children’s blood. Sophie must prevent their gluttonous massacre. With the help of the snozzcumber munching BFG, they set out to stop the Childchewer, Bonecrusher and the rest of the terrifying giants from swallowing the children of England.


6. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Young Hugo lives unnoticed within the walls of a Parisian train station – until a series of encounters with a strange and bitter old man places Hugo at the centre of the discovery of the magical new art of cinema. Its blend of visual and written stories lends this book the wonderfully unique experience of reading a film. The eerie and evocative black and white illustrations draw the reader into Hugo’s shadowy world of mysterious bookshops, clockwork men and the forgotten genius who first pioneered the use of visual effects in film.

7. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar

Bradley Chalkers sits at the back of the classroom, all alone: everyone ignores him and he ignores everyone else, including his teachers. In this powerful novel, the reader gets to explore how new friendships and the magical world of books enable Bradley to take on some of the challenges he faces until the Bradley we see by the end is a very different boy from the one whom we meet at the start of the story.


8. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

A story that tells the tale of the Second World War experienced through the eyes of those children who were evacuated to the countryside. One of the most touching and powerful children’s books ever written, it tells the story of grumpy Tom Oakley who takes in young Willie only to form an unlikely friendship which helps to enrich both of their lives. Yet no one was safe from the ravages of the war, and circumstances conspire to split them apart.


9. Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce

A true modern classic; set in a fictional time as England is about to change from pound sterling to the Euro, two brothers discover millions of pounds in cash, with seventeen days left to spend the money. Damian, the younger brother, believes the money has come from God and should be used for doing good. But his older brother Anthony has other ideas and starts using the money to bribe classmates, even looking into real estate. Unbeknownst to the brothers, the money came from a train robbery, and the robbers are looking for their money… will they be able to catch up with the brothers before time finally runs out?


10. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a gorilla of few, but well-chosen, words. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he’s used to us peering at him through the glass but make no mistake, he’s been watching us too. In my size, humans see a test of themselves. They hear fighting words on the wind when all I’m thinking is how the late-day sun reminds me of ripe nectarine.’ But Ivan’s thoughtful life of resignation abruptly changes, with the imminent arrival of a baby elephant. His elderly elephant companion, injured by cruelty in captivity, asks him to ensure the baby doesn’t suffer her own fate. Katherine Applegate’s powerful story is inspired by a real Ivan; she explains: I wanted to give him someone to protect, and the chance to be the mighty silverback he was always meant to be.’ Expect tears before bedtime but they may well be your own!


11. Goggle-Eyes by Anne Fine

Kitty is on the warpath: mum’s got a new boyfriend, and Kitty is adamant he’s not going to have an easy time of it. Can she succeed in driving Goggle Eyes’ Gerald away, or will she realise he’s not all that bad once you get to know him…? Kitty’s emotional journey plays out in the context of her telling her own story to comfort fellow classmate Helen, who dislikes her prospective stepfather and is sitting in the school cloakroom in tears. The positive framing of the story will help any young reader appreciate the often hilarious developments in Kitty’s tale, as well as accommodate potentially new family dynamics in their own lives.

12. The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

Spare, poetic text and beautifully intricate painted illustrations reveal the inner fear and isolation of a young girl – who could be any one of us – as she struggles to get through the day in a world where nothing makes sense, and everything seems to be going wrong. That is until the unseen hope, foreshadowed by a tiny red leaf on every page, is realised and we find it breaking through and blooming into a red tree growing right in front of us on the final pages. This is a story of how we can all feel alone and utterly hopeless at times, but of how hope is there – somewhere – even if we can’t always see it. It is waiting to break through and blossom for all of us. A brave, powerful and inspired rendering of what so often remains unsaid within each one of us, regardless of age.


13. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“As parents talk, sing and read to their children, existing links among brain cells are strengthened and new links are formed. At a younger age, learning is faster than it will be as the child grows older. When a child is taught to read, the process of learning has a profound influence on the entire functioning and development of the brain. You can play a critical early role by inculcating not only reading skills and ability but more importantly, instilling a lifelong love of learning and reading.” – Tracing Letter Book

14. The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

An unusual tale of a boy who discovers an obscure-looking creature whilst out collecting bottle-tops on the beach. Guessing that it is lost, the boy decides to try to find out who owns it, or where this thing belongs. Faced with the distinct unhelpfulness of the people around him, the boy feels sorry for the lost thing’, becoming even more persistent in his search – now aided by clues in the form of directional arrows. This beautifully mysterious picture book explores a landscape which will no doubt fuel the imagination and immerse any reader, with its eventual arrival at a safe haven for the lost thing.

11 Fun bedtime stories that every child will enjoy

1. Up and Down by Oliver JeffersUp and Down by Oliver Jeffers

Picking up the story from Lost and Found of the newfound friendship shared by a boy and a penguin, the lovely illustrations in Oliver Jeffers’ sequel, Up and Down, help to tell of the latest journey our penguin is keen to embark upon: now it is all about learning to fly! For anyone who has ever wanted to prove the impossible, this is a tale of the appeal of adventure; of the ups and downs which can often come with a friendship, and of how we might lose and yet still find one another once more.

2. The Animal Boogie by Debbie Harter

This brilliant rhyming story is great for getting children singing and dancing, learning through music and movement and having a chance to burn some of their exuberant energy (hopefully reminding you of yours!). Deep in the Indian jungle, children from all over the world have come together to jump, hop, shake and flap. Joining the animals, the children will soon know how to boogie just like them! With songs that are easy to read and bright illustrations to enjoy, this book cannot fail to engage your fun-loving little ones!

3. Mia’s Story by Michael ForemanMia's Story by Michael Foreman

A delicately realised story, beautifully conveying the power of family and community, and the possibility of hope – even in the most difficult of circumstances. Living in a house made of the city’s discarded refuse, Mia has been given a dog found by her father, but when Poco runs away, Mia is led all the way up to the peaks of the snowy South American mountains in search of him. It is there that she makes a wondrous discovery; marking the start of a new venture, and the beginning of a new life for both Mia and her family.

4. The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth

It’s one thing to have a pigeon poop on your head from above, but it’s a total shocker for the Little Mole, who upon poking his head from his burrow one morning, is hit on the head by a lump of brown, smelly ‘business’. Quite outraged by the incident, the Little Mole makes it his business to find out who the poo belongs. From rabbit pellets to steaming patties no animal’s excrement is left unidentified. Join Little Mole on his quest to find the perpetrator and take stinking revenge.

5. Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne

Handa's Surprise by Eileen BrowneGorgeously illustrated, and spectacularly colourful, Handa’s Surprise offers to take you and your child on a delightful Kenyan journey as Handa makes her way to a friend’s village to share some fruit with her. With cheeky stealth, a host of creatures take the opportunity to help themselves to Handa’s fruit, but at the end of the book she is to receive a lovely surprise … An engaging celebration of diverse cultures, friendship and of nature in all its glory, your children won’t be able to help to join in and trying to tell Handa what’s behind her!

6. The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett

All the birds had laid an egg. All except for Duck.’ Not to be outdone, Duck makes sure he finds one of his own, but whilst this huge egg is in his eyes beautiful, all speckled with green spots, it is most certainly not a duck egg, and the other birds are less than impressed. Eventually, the day arrives when each of the eggs begins, one by one, to creak and crack open…a beautifully drawn and suspenseful story, with a delightful cast of various different birds, an exciting surprise reveal and a fetching knitted scarf. The illustration on the last page says it all and will have you squeakily trying out the voice of the newly hatched little creature.

7. Oh No, George! by Chris HaughtonOh No, George! by Chris Haughton

A captivating little tale of George the dog and his struggle to be good, when all he really wants to do is eat cake and chase cats! Full of detailed, emotion-filled pictures, and a plot which you’ll love involving your little one and chatting about, the book finally finishes up with a dramatic cliffhanger ending. Perfect for reading aloud together.

8. The Slightly Annoying Elephant by David Walliams

With plenty to amuse both parent and child, David Walliams’ book comes in a large hardback with vivid colours and big elephant-sized pictures. It tells the story of a persistent elephant whose visit causes mayhem, but who is still loveable nonetheless. A delightful read with younger children, and a gift for those who at the end of the day might need to be nudged into a smile.

9. Sharing a Shell by Julia DonaldsonSharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson

Take a sunny trip to the seaside, where you can delve into the wonderful world of shells and the colourful creatures who nestle inside them. This heart-warming story tells of a loveable, if somewhat reclusive, a hermit crab who is overjoyed when he finds a new shell to make his home in, but much less happy about the idea of having to share it with others. For our hermit crab, it is a difficult thing to learn but he soon comes to discover that sharing is a much better option than having to face the world alone. The book helped me and my four-year-old speak about why having friends and sharing with them are really good things to do; I recommend it!

10. The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl

Over thirty years on, Roald Dahl’s characteristically witty narrative, and weird and wonderful sense of humour still retain a timeless appeal. A nasty crocodile plans ways of disguising himself so that he can get to gobble up some children, but is repeatedly scuppered to great comic effect by other more friendly, and impressively valiant jungle animals. Dahl’s masterful combination of prose and rhyme is accompanied once more by Quentin Blake’s trademark illustrations, giving this story a classic finish.

11. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

The very definition of a modern classic, The Gruffalo tells the story of a cunning mouse who hatches a plan to escape from the clutches of some hungry forest animals, keen to have him on their menu. Scaring them away by describing the worst creature of them all, the much-feared (but imaginary) Gruffalo, the mouse thinks he has the last laugh. But the Gruffalo could be more real than he thought…

Why bedtime reading is important for your child

The image of a child tucked up in bed with their parent sitting beside them, book in hand is one that resonates with us all. A nightly habit for most families, this activity is considered a crucial part of childhood and the role of the storyteller is one of the best parenting privileges. Though evidently an ingenious tool in ensuring your child will be exhausted enough to fall asleep, there is a range of benefits in bedtime reading with your child, and eventually in having your child read to you.


1. It cultivates their minds at bedtime

The concern of any parent is giving their child the necessary tools they need in order to have a prosperous, fulfilling life. As ever, this task begins at home. Reading is one of the most important communication tools that we have available to us and is fundamental in establishing essential pathways in the brain in early learners. Author John Hutton, MD says: ‘Reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to nursery seems to have a meaningful, measurable impact on how a child’s brain processes stories and may help predict reading success.’

Not only does it further basic speech and reading skills but it has been shown to promote better communication skills which are essential at any stage in your child’s life, whether this is making friends in the playground or reading aloud in class.

Through continuing with a story on a daily basis, bedtime reading with your child can have a fantastic effect on enhancing your child’s attention span. In this way they can concentrate for longer in school, bettering their education overall. Following a story can also improve their use of logic, as they think of ways in which their favourite characters can overcome the obstacles they are facing.

2. It expands their emotional understanding

Reading is not often immediately thought of as an instrumental tool in discussions about emotional health, but any avid reader will tell you of the times they cried or laughed at a good piece of writing. Bedtime reading with your child can help them to approach difficult topics in a safe environment, where they can explore powerful emotions through the medium of fiction. It can be used as a means to approach and overcome big milestones that can trigger emotional changes in your child. It can also teach them an integral lesson in empathy. Sharing these experiences together can foster a stronger connection between a parent and child. It can also provide you with ample topics for conversations between the two of you.

3. It opens the door to other worlds

The effect reading has on an individual’s imagination is unparalleled. Books, magazines, atlases and journals – and any type of reading material that they can get their hands on – allows your child to explore both our world and fictional ones. Reading to your child can take you on fantastic journeys. Together you can clamber through jungles, scale mountains or swim to hidden depths, without even having to step through your front door. It can also help to express their individuality. Aiding them in discovering interests that may not be covered by their school curriculum.

No two children are the same, which makes it difficult to truly list the best bedtime stories for kids. If you haven’t found book inspiration here, check out our bedtime story finder and snuggle up in your kid’s bed tonight.

About the author

More from the Sleep Matters Club