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: