My Family · On Writing · Parenting

Bedtime Stories – A Shields’ Family Ritual (With Book List Gift Guide!)


Reading at bedtime is a ritual that’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Books were a massive part of my youth, and I know, have shaped much of who I am as a human being. We didn’t have lots of money when I was child. One small toy box between my sister and I was what we had for the few toys we owned. But books…we had books to read. At every gift-giving opportunity, I asked for books. Libraries were second homes. I read like I was dying and books were my cure. I saved my favourite books that I read as a child and into my teenage years knowing that one day I’d have children and they would get to read these books too. That means that through every move (and there were many), I had boxes of books I’d been collecting and saving for years. For my kids. For my memories. For my soul.

I often have a novel or book in my bag with me. I’ve got stacks beside my bed (as I’ve shared with you many a blogs), and they litter our house like silent fairies waiting to be noticed and picked up.

We were those parents who read to a bulging baby belly. For months before each child was born, we’d read to my protruding ball of baby belly because it felt good to do so, because we believed our child could hear it and even ‘in uterus’ fall in love with reading.

Each night before the kids fall asleep, we read together with them. Jett has been reading novels since he was born (practically!) and Miller is learning to read with a voraciousness that is unstoppable. And she writes too! (I don’t know where she gets it!) She takes notebooks and copies sentences from story books into them. She writes sight-words she sees in the books we read. It’s amazing.

I find reading calms us all down. Books give us something to focus on when our brains want to keep going but our bodies need to rest. We use various accents when we read. We sing. We laugh. And all of it seems to ground us in the story and bring us together as a family, as human beings, and get us ready for slumber.

There are many nights when we have to force the kids to turn off the light and stop reading!

When I saw that a new memory foam mattress company called Casper wrote a post about their favorite ‘bedtime stories’ for National Young Readers Week (Nov. 10th – 14th in the USA – I’m a week late!), I couldn’t help but want to create a post of my own. (Throw in my website issues and the fact that I’m doing  National Novel Writing Month – and you get a blog a bit late, but still relevant, right?!)

Here is a list of books we read as a family over and over again at bedtime (And what a great HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE!):

(In no particular order – all could be #1)

Big Plans by Bob Shea, Illustrations by Lane Smith – Um, completely inspiring, spirited story about a kid who’s ready to rule the everything. He had us at ‘muckety-mucks’.

I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed (Charlie and Lola Series) by Lauren Child – The artwork is deliciously cute and the story is divine. We always read this in an English accent. Righto!

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers – Man, such imagination. Such wit. We love all Oliver Jeffers. ‘Nuff said.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina –  I read this book as a child and just about peed my pants when I found a hardcover copy in a small bookstore in New York City. It has since become a family favourite. Smart, sweet and beautiful, this is a keeper.

The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein – Shel is a master of poetics. His stories are clean and concise and completely attached to your heart strings. This one makes us all gush and  embrace. (Except, the photo of him on the back of the book jacket scared the kids when they were little…)

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – Another classic that teaches as it warms and challenges. Shel rules.

Socks for Supper by Jack Kent – This was my favourite book when I was a child. I cried when I found it on the shelf at Value Village. Sweet sugar pops! There it was! A story with a deep moral, a red sweater and cheese. Love. It.

I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt, Illustrations by Cyd Moore – I feel like this story was meant for our goofy, hyperbolic family. We read it so much we broke the spine.

 Moose’s Loose Tooth by Jacqueline A. Clarke – A fun, everyone-reads kinda story!

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns to Listen by Howard Binkow, Illustrated by Susan F. Cornelison – A great ‘learn to listen’ story!

Plant A Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Illustrated by Peter. H. Reynolds – Beautiful. Heartwarming. We end in kisses!

The Dot & Ish by Peter H. Reynolds – Everyone should every book by Reynolds. He knows creativity like breathing. Gah. LOVE HIS BOOKS.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers – So smart! We laugh out loud reading this one. And we use ALL the colours when we colour!

Miss Nelson Collection by James Marshall – A childhood favourite. I found this gem collection in the Scholastic book order offerings! Yay!

George and Martha by James Marshall – I also read these books as a child and loved the quirky friendship stories!

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats – A longer-length story with a great plot and beautiful artwork. We’re whistling by the end!

It’s A Book by Lane Smith – One of my favourites as an adult! This book is smart and sassy – and I love it’s message – Read BOOKS!

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion –  This was one of my sister’s favourite books as a child. (I think!) We love dogs and it’s our favourite now as well! Woof! Woof!

 Anything by Robert Munsch.  – Miller loves ‘Stephanie’s Ponytail’.

Anything by Dr. Seuss.  Jett loves ‘The Bitter Butter Battle’. I love ‘Oh The Thinks You Can Think’.

I know there are many I’m forgetting…but it’s almost bedtime here in the Shields home…and I gotta go get the kids ready for bed…and choose some books to read!

What are your favourite childhood story books?

Casper’s Bedtime Stories Blog Post – if you’re interested in what the friendly folks at Casper have to share about their Bedtime Stories. (Please note: This is not a promotion/endorsement for Casper beds. This is me believing in bedtime stories and reading rituals and literacy. The beds do sound amazing…but I don’t own one. Thank you.)

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