Reading to your child at bedtime is an important activity for any parent to do. It benefits your child’s intellectual and emotional growth and can do wonders for their imagination. However, finding the perfect story can sometimes be quite difficult.
As a result we’ve collected a list of books that are well suited to those children who are in the early years of primary school and are itching for the perfect story to take with them under the covers. If you’d like to see what there is to offer in our other categories then please see our Bedtime Story Finder.
Editor’s Note: See more on our dedicated bedtime story topic page.
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.’
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, 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.
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 are 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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 reading 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’ voice. Your little ones will be in stitches in no time as no doubt will you!
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.
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.
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!
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 to receive 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.
Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
A really interesting and insightful story allowing us – through words and pictures – in to 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!
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?
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.
Have we missed out your book of choice for Lower Primary school reader? Let us know which one is your favourite in the comments below!