In my house, my children quickly discovered that I could not say no to a book. This has the ability to delay bedtime by days. I realized that with one child I was regularly reading 12-14 books per night. And while it was wonderfully engaging and wonderful to encourage reading, it was less than wonderful because the child should have been in bed an hour earlier.
In our house the rule is to “pick three books” (Dad) and “pick a few books and if it’s 10 that’s OK” (Mom). Our children get to choose what the nighttime reading is. While sometimes I cringe at the doors I open with that option (and yes sometimes I chant, softly, please don’t pick the 200-page book about the history of the NHL, please don’t pick the 200-page book about the history of the NHL because Mama does not want to read that book) I feel they should be the ones to choose the stories. And I’m always curious to see what they choose. While we have books in regular rotation there’s always a moment of “Hey, look what I found” when an old favorite comes off the shelf, or when a new book is discovered.
Here are a few ideas for organizing things so you don’t accidentally read 14 books:
Be the librarian. Get some “book baskets.” Any basket or bin will do. You could even use a recycled box. When we were away I used a tote bag. Put a selection of books in the basket each night and let the child choose from those. This limits the “I will find any book in any corner of the house” issue. You can rotate the books by the night, week, or as often as you’d like. I have book baskets in just about every room of the house. We keep the “fun” (i.e. anti-bedtime) books downstairs in the playroom book basket. The morning books are in the basket in our room, and any book that involves a refrain where kids yell is in the closet book basket. (Kidding. Mostly.)
Organize the books. I’m guilty of searching for 20 minutes to find the Curious George book because we’ve misplaced it (and obviously it was in the laundry room because why wouldn’t it be?). If you want to go all out Dewey Decimal system that’s ok but usually just organizing books by format (board books, paperbacks, chapter books) will help you narrow down just where the book is. It will also help your kids find the favorites they are searching for.
Choose wisely. Books that celebrate, that encourage you to get up, that require children to yell back a refrain… all great. But for me, those don’t work at bedtime. I like books that wind down so those are the ones that go into the baskets.
Have a closing number. I learned (sorry, second child) that by ending reading time with the same book every night I was signaling that it was time to turn out the light. Sometimes I have an encore, but generally I know how to sing myself off the stage.
All of this helped me. Now we only read 10 books a night.
My favorite wind-down books:
Day is Done
by Peter Yarrow
Peter Yarrow follows the blockbuster success of Puff, the Magic Dragon with a picture book version of his beautiful song, “Day Is Done.”
As night falls, animal and human parents everywhere tenderly tuck their children into bed. In the darkness, each child—raccoon, doe, rabbit, field mouse, and a little boy—wonders: Will I be safe? Will you be there for me? And every mommy and daddy responds with the comforting words of Yarrow’s refrain: “I am here.”
Caldecott Honor-winning artist Melissa Sweet has created gorgeous images that celebrate the loving bond between parent and child, as well as the connection between all creatures of the earth.
Going To Bed Book
Getting ready for sleep is tons of fun in this special anniversary edition of a Sandra Boynton classic. The sun has set not long ago. Now everybody goes belowto take a bath in one big tubwith soap all over—SCRUB SCRUB SCRUB! This classic bedtime story is just right for winding down the day as a joyful, silly group of animals scrub scrub scrub in the tub, brush and brush and brush their teeth, and finally rock and rock and rock to sleep. This anniversary edition has an enlarged trim size and metallic ink on the cover, making this Boynton classic even more special.
This cozy and cuddly picture book celebrates all the most wonderful things about babies and is perfect for reading aloud to little ones. Rosy cheeks. Button nose. Little fingers. Tiny toes. Sweet kiss. Warm hug. Yes, it must be baby love. Anyone who has ever delighted in a baby’s bright smile or darling toes will instantly connect to this adorable picture book with simple text and adorable illustrations. With just the right balance of sweetness and humor, this is a soothing ode to all the wonderful bits and pieces that make up a cuddly, snuggly baby.
In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. “Goodnight room, goodnight moon.” And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room–to the picture of the three little bears sitting in chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to the mittens and the kittens, to everything one by one–he says goodnight.
In this classic of modern children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.