Your parents’ bedtime stories may be some of your favorite and earliest memories from childhood. Bedtime stories are a tradition many new parents look forward to. Reading to your child before bed creates precious memories, but it also bolsters your child’s cognitive development and social skills.

Below we review the benefits of reading to your children, offer bedtime reading tips for parents, and share the most popular bedtime stories currently available in print, online, and even apps.

Benefits of reading to your children

Sharing bedtime stories with your child is a precious and heartwarming experience. Snuggling in with a good book strengthens your parent-child bond, but it has a real impact on your child’s success in life, too. According to the National Education Association, children who are read to frequently at home have a developmental advantage over their counterparts who don’t share bedtime reading with their parents. They are more likely to count to 20, write their own names, and read on their own.

In fact, reading to your child is so important, that the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their policy in 2014 to recommend reading from infancy. Simply having your child handle the book, touch and point to the illustrations, and turn the pages strengthens their motor skills.

Children whose parents read to them earlier have better language skills than others who were read to later or not at all. The rhyming present in many children’s’ books isn’t by accident. The more frequently a child encounters a sound, the more quickly they can process that sound when they hear it in other words. MRIs scans show greater activity in the visual imagery and narrative comprehension areas in the brains of children who are read to at home.

Reading to your child is helpful beyond just learning language and speech patterns. It also helps them develop socially and emotionally. Children start to form associations and learnings regarding events from the stories they hear. As your child ages and progresses in reading level, you can ask them open-ended questions about predicting the next part of the story or how they would end it differently.

Bedtime reading tips for parents

When you first start reading to your child at night, look for books according to your child’s age. Then, as they grow up, you can adjust accordingly, depending on their reading level. Enhance your child’s memory and cognitive processing skills by reading to them every night before bed. Especially for younger readers, reading the same story over and over helps your child learn speech patterns, understand words, and recognize themes.

Would you like to create your own bedtime story for your child? Here are some tips for keeping your child’s attention and sharing lots of giggles:

  1. Retell your own favorite stories from childhood.
  2. Keep the story short and sweet.
  3. If your child has a passion, include that in the story as a pastime of the main character or as the setting for the plot.
  4. Consider framing your story as a moral, so your child learns preferred behaviors over others.
  5. Create the story with your child by switching off every other sentence, or take a cue from improv: have your child name a character, place, or problem, and create a story around it.
  6. If you want to create your own story but aren’t sure how, brush up on Greek myths and classic fairy tales for inspiration or try out one of these helpful prompts from Brightly.

Best bedtime books for babies and toddlers

Many books for babies and toddlers are board books or rag books (made of cloth) which are easier for them to handle. Encourage your child to read the book, interact with the illustrations, and practice sounding out the words to develop their growing mind.

goodnight moonGoodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrations by Clement Hurd

Available in print, board book, ebook, YouTube

Ages 1-4

In the ultimate bedtime story book of all time, a rabbit says goodnight to all the things in his bedroom, including the moon, as he goes to bed.

good night gorillaGood Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Available in print, board book, ebook, YouTube

Ages 1-3

This book features a mischievous gorilla who steals the keys from the zookeeper and lets the animals out of their cages one by one.

my lucky little dragonMy Lucky Little Dragon by Joyce Wan

Available in print, board book

Ages 1-3

This story characterizes each sign of the Chinese Zodiac with an adorable animal.

you are my cupcakeYou Are My Cupcake by Joyce Wan

Available in print, board book

Ages 1-3

This delicious book honors all the sweet pet names we call our children, from peanut to pumpkin.

time for bedTime for Bed by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Jane Dyer

Available in print, board book, YouTube

Ages 1-3

This book follows baby animals and their parents as they get tucked in for the night.

sweet dreams samSweet Dreams, Sam by Yves Got

Available in print

Ages 0-4

This interactive book allows children to pet the skins, hides, and scales of different animals as they go to sleep.

sleepy bunnySleepy Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

Available in print, rag book

Ages 0-4

This soft rag book features a plush bunny your child can move from page to page as you read about the bunny’s bedtime routine.

the night paradeThe Night Parade by Lily Roscoe, Illustrated by David Walker

Available in print, ebook

Ages 1-3

Watch some children who sneak out of bed after their parents tuck them in at night.

twinkle twinkle little starTwinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Caroline Jayne Church

Available in print, board book, YouTube

Ages 1-3

This book adapts the popular lullaby to a teaching tool about the stars and the moon.

goodnight construction siteGoodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Available in print, ebook, YouTube

Ages 1-6

Follow dumpster trucks, cranes, and more as they fall asleep at a construction site.

how will i ever sleep in this bedHow Will I Ever Sleep in This Bed? by Della Ross Ferreri, Illustrated by Capucine Mazille

Available in print, board book

Ages 2-4

This book helps children transition from crib to a bed all their own.

the going to bed bookThe Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton

Available in print, ebook, iPad app, YouTube

Ages 2-5

A modern classic that ues rhymes and repeated words to bring animals’ bedtime routines to life, from brushing their teeth to falling asleep.

brown bearBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Illustrated by Eric Carle

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 2-5

This classic story helps children identify animals and learn rods and colors as they identify different animals.

corduroyCorduroy by Don Freeman

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 2-5

Corduroy is a teddy bear hoping to be taken home by a child who will love him forever.

guess how muchGuess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Illustrated by Anita Jeram

Available in print, board book, YouTube

Ages 2-3

A baby bunny and his parent compete with metaphors about how much they love each other.

pajama timePajama Time by Sandra Boynton

Available in print, board book, YouTube

Ages 1-4

This book puts a fun twist on bedtime, turning it into a pajama party!

Best bedtime stories for kindergartners and first-graders

Children develop at different stages. Some of these books may be too elementary for your young reader, or they may be just right. We’ve included a spectrum of books that cater to different reading levels of early childhood.

taggies bookMy First Taggies Book: Sweet Dreams by Kaori Watanabe

Available in rag book

Ages 3-5

Part of the Taggie series, this book’s soft fleece cover and touchy-feely animals doubles as a bedtime companion as well as a book.

touch-the-brightest-starTouch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson

Available in print, board book, YouTube

Ages 4-8

This interactive touchy feely book lets children pat a deer and wish upon a star as they fall asleep.

rabbit who wantsThe Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin, Illustrated by Irina Maununen

Available in print, ebook, audiobook

Ages 3-7

This book uses repetitive language patterns designed to lull your child to sleep.

how many kissesHow Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight? by Varsha Bajaj, Illustrated by Ivan Bates

Available in print, board book

Ages 4-8

This rhyming book follows animals as they decide how many kisses they want from their parents before they fall asleep.

DontLetThePigeonStayUpLateDon’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! By Mo Willems

Available in print, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 3-5

This funny pigeon will give your child the bedtime giggles as they follow its wacky adventures before bed.

bedtimemathBedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out by Laura Overdeck, Illustrated by Jim Paillot

Available in print, ebook

Ages 3-6

If anything puts someone to sleep, it’s a math problem. If your child likes this book, check out the rest of the Bedtime Math series.

i dare you not to yawnI Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau, Illustrated by Serge Bloch

Available in print, board book, YouTube

Ages 4-8

This cheeky how-to guide helps kids learn how to hide their yawns and push back their bedtime.

bedtime for francesBedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban, Illustrated by Garth Williams

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 4-8

Frances is a clever little badger who will try all sorts of things to keep from having to go to sleep.

frog and toadFrog & Toad Together by Arnold Lobel

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 4-8

This winner of the Newbery Honor follows best friends frog and toad on their favorite things to do together. The Book is divided into chapters, making it a nice fit for more experienced readers who want to progress the story along each night.

orion and the darkOrion and the Dark by Emma Yarlet

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 3-7

Young Orion is afraid of the Dark, until the Dark takes him on an adventure.

polar bear nightPolar Bear Night by Lauren Thompson, Illustrated by Stephen Savage

Available in print, board book

Ages 3-5

This book prizes pictures above words and follows a polar bear cub throughout the Arctic at night.

hushHush! By Minfog Ho, Illustrated by Holly Meade

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 3-6

This Thai lullaby as follows a mother asking nearby animals to stay quiet so her baby boy can sleep.

how do dinosaurs say good nightHow Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Mark Teague

Available in print, board book, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

Parents might think putting children is difficult to sleep, but just imagine if they were dinosaurs! This fun book imagines eleven types of dinosaurs sleeping in human beds.

good night i love youGood Night, I Love You by Caroline Jayne Church

Available in print, board book, ebook, YouTube

Ages 3-5

Parents tuck toddlers in and follow a bedtime routine.

time to sleepTime to Sleep by Denise Fleming

Available in print, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 3-7

Different animals discover the signs of nature that help them hibernate as your child learns about animals sleeping.

bear snores onBear Snores On by Karma Wilson, Illustrated by Jane Chapman

Available in print, board book, audio book, YouTube

Ages 3-7

While a bear hibernates, all of his animal friends crash his pad and throw a party. What will happen when he wakes up?

kiss good nightKiss Good Night by Amy Hest, Illustrated by Anita Jeram

Available in print, board book, YouTube

Ages 2-5

A mother bear puts her cub to sleep, finishing it off with a big kiss.

what cried grannyWhat! Cried Granny by Kate Lum, Illustrated by Adrian Johnson

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 3-5

Patrick is about to have a sleepover at his grandma’s place, until they realize he doesn’t have a bed. What will they do?

in the tall tall grassIn the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 2-6

Winner of multiple book awards, this book follows a fuzzy caterpillar through his day all the way until he falls asleep.

10 minutes till bedtime10 Minutes till Bedtime by Peggy Rathman

Available in print, board book

Ages 2-5

A young boy is surprised to learn his pet hamster has opened up his cage for 10 minute bedtime tours.

ten nine eightTen, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

Available in print, board book, YouTube

Ages 3-5

Countdown to bedtime from ten toes all washed up.

the very hungry caterpillarThe Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Available in board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 3-5

Apparently this book is so popular, a version is sold every 30 seconds. Follow the very hungry caterpillar as he devours his favorite foods.

bedtime is canceledBedtime Is Canceled by Cece Meng, Illustrated by Aurelie Neyret

Available in print

Ages 4-7

Maggie’s wish is for bedtime is canceled. Her wish comes true when a journalist accidentally spreads the news and mayhem ensues.

ILoveYouStinkyFaceI Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Illustrated by Cyd Moore

Available in print, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

The child in this story thinks up inventive excuses to avoid going to bed by asking his mom if she would still love him even if he were a variety of weird creatures.

LlamaLlamaLlama, Llama, Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Available in print, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 3-7

The baby llama in this story gets afraid that his mom disappears when he falls asleep and learns to trust that she’ll always be there.

the baby beebee birdThe Baby BeeBee Bird by Diane Redfield Massie, Illustrated by Steven Kellogg

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 4-8

A new arrival at the zoo believes he is supposed to sing his song all night long. The other animals suggest he do otherwise.

where the wild things areWhere the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Available in print, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

This story follows a boy to a mystical place where alternately funny, friendly, and ferocious monsters lurk before he comes back home to a bowl of hot soup.

splat the catSplat the Cat by Rob Scotton

Available in print, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

Splat is a bumbling feline hero who learns all about mice at school.

the runaway bunnyThe Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd

Available in print, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

This bunny tries to run away, but no matter where he runs off to, his mother can always find him. This reassuring story makes it easier for your child to fall asleep.

love you foreverLove You Forever by Robert Munsch, Illustrated by Sheila McGraw

Available in print, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

This book charts a mother caring for her son all the way into old age, when the roles become reversed.

alexander dayAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Ray Cruz

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-7

Everyone has bad days. Fortunately, knowing that makes it a little bit better.

the paper bag princessThe Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, Illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Available in print, ebook, YouTube

Ages 4-7

A beautiful princess rescues a very rude dragon prince.

the giving treeThe Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Available in print, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 1-8

This touching story has been teaching children about selflessness for generations.

madelineMadeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 3-7

Children love the stories of Madeline, a Parisian schoolgirl who isn’t afraid of anything.

oliviaOlivia by Ian Falconer

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 3-7

In this newer classic, Olivia the happy-go-lucky pig enjoys a day full of singing songs, painting, and building sand castles before she finally goes to bed.

the day the crayons quitThe Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Available in print, board book, ebook, YouTube

Ages 3-7

Have you ever wondered what would happen if your crayons went on protest? This modern classic won multiple awards when it came out in 2013.

skippyjon jonesSkippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

Available in print, ebook, YouTube

Ages 3-5

Skippyjon Jones is a frisky kitty who learns Spanish while he experiments being a Chihuahua for a day. Related titles include Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse and Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble.

OneFishTwoFishOne Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

Available in print, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 3-7

This fun rhyming book observes various Seussian characters in their underwater world.

Best bedtime stories for elementary school readers

owl moonOwl Moon by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by John Schoenherr

Available in print, audiobook, DVD, YouTube

Ages 5-7

A farmer and his daughter go on a nighttime walk to discover owls and other nocturnal animals.

drseuss sleep bookDr. Seuss’s Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss

Available in print, ebook, YouTube

Ages 5-9

Let the yawns roar with this rhyming story all about yawns.

sidney stella moonSidney, Stella, and the Moon by Emma Yarlet

Available in print

Ages 5-8

Twins Sidney and Stella accidentally knock the moon out of the sky. How will they manage to get it back?

polars bears past bedtimePolar Bears Past Bedtime by Mary Pope Osborne, Illustrated by Sal Murdocca

Available in print, ebook, audiobook

Ages 6-9

In Book 12 of the Magic Treehouse series, Jack and Annie solve a riddle in the Arctic.

the cat in the hatThe Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Available in print, rag book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 3-7

Two siblings are bored on a rainy day, until Dr. Seuss’s most famous cat shows up to wreak havoc and adventure.

song of nightSong of Night by Katherine Riley Nakamura, Illustrated by Linnea Riley

Available in print

Ages 4-8

Young, snuggly baby animals from the forest to the farm snuggle up with their parents as they fall asleep in this sweet bedtime story.

caps for saleCaps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

A tale of man versus monkey that’s been popular since 1940.

kittens first full moonKitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 5-7

The kitten thinks the full moon is a big bowl of milk. Hilarity ensues.

oliver who would not sleepOliver Who Would Not Sleep by Mara Bergman, Illustrated by Nick Maland

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 4-8

As soon as his parents put him to bed, Oliver goes off on all sorts of adventures. But try as he might to stay awake, he always ends up falling asleep.

long night moonLong Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Mark Siegel

Available in print

Ages 5-7

Inspired by the Native American tradition of naming full moons, this book invites children to look to the sky.

russell the sheepRussell the Sheep Written and Illustrated by Rob Scotton

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 5-7

We may count sheep to fall asleep, but what do sheep do when they can’t fall asleep?

too much noiseToo Much Noise by Ann McGovern, Illustrated by Simms Taback

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 4-7

A young child complains that his village is too noisy for him to fall asleep until an old wise men offers him a lesson in perspective.

no more yawningNo More Yawning! by Paeony Lewis, Illustrated by Brita Granstrom

Available in print, YouTube

Ages 4-8

Florence and her stuffed animal try to fight their yawns and sleepiness before bed.

the story of babarThe Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff

Available in print, ebook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

Published in 1931, this story follows the world’s most famous literary elephant, Babar, as he finds his way to be crowned King of the Elephants.

tale of peter rabbitThe Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Available in print, ebook, YouTube

Ages 3-7

This story teaches children of the consequences of misbehaving. What happens when Peter disobeys his mom and ventures into Mr. McGregor’s garden?

the hundred dressesThe Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

Available in print, ebook, audiobook

Ages 6-9

Winner of the 1945 Newbery Honor, this story follows a schoolgirl who is bullied by her classmates for wearing the same dress every day. The story comes to a sweet end as the bullies find a change of heart.

a bear called paddingtonA Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, Illustrated by Peggy Fortnum

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 8-12

Paddington the Bear travels from Peru to London where he joins the Brown family on their daily adventures.

winnie the poohWinnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard

Available in print, board book, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 8-12

Pooh and his friends of the Hundred Acre Wood have been delighting children for nearly a century.

pinkaliciousPinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann

Available in print, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 4-8

A young girl contracts a serious case of Pinkititis from eating too many pink cupcakes. Teach your children the merits of eating healthy green foods.

Best bedtime stories for middle schoolers

By middle school, your child will be comfortable reading chapter books on their own. However, you can prime them for book clubs in adulthood by reading separately and discussing the books together, or watching the movie version after they finish reading. Middle school is a great time to introduce your child to some literary series that will spark their imagination.

charie and the chocolate factoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Available in print, ebook, audiobook, YouTube

Ages 8-12

Any of Roald Dahl’s books are imaginative and great for young readers. If your child likes this book, check out two of his other more popular books, The BFG and Matilda.

harry potterThe Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Available in print, ebook, audiobook

The seven books of Harry Potter follow Harry through seven years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you time it right, the vocabulary of the books progresses as well to match the new words your child learns throughout adolescence.

chronicles of narniaThe Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

Available in print, ebook, audiobook

Ages 8-12

This series of fantasy books features talking lions, witches, and wardrobes that will capture your child’s imagination and give them vivid dreams.

a wrinkle in timeA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Available in print, ebook, audiobook

Winner of the Newbery Medal, this book is actually part 1 of the Time Quintet Series. Follow Meg and her brother as they travel in time to save their father’s life.

holesHoles by Louis Sachar

Available in print, ebook, audiobook

Ages 10-12

Another winner of the Newbery Medal observes Stanley, who is stuck digging holes all day. That is, until one day he finds something…

Best bedtime stories for adults

calmJust as bedtime stories calm fears and anxieties around bedtime and the dark for children, so too do they help adults suffering from insomnia and anxiety. Many adults enjoy audiobooks, but worry about listening to them as they fall asleep in case they miss something important. The solution? Bedtime stories for adults, available via audiobooks and smartphone apps.

Meditation app Calm, available on iPhones, Apple Watch, and Android, includes a Sleep Stories section. The narrators all have calming, dulcet tones. Options range from Ferris Bueller’s teacher reading Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations by Ferris Bueller’s teacher to a clinical psychologist giving a talk about sleep science..

Classic bedtime stories

Some bedtime stories have been perennially popular ever since they were first published. Here are the most popular bedtime stories, many of which have been published for 50 years or more, with a few modern classics thrown in.

For a full description, we’ve included all of these books in our age level categories above.

  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  • The Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Olivia by Ian Falconer
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • The Going-To-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
  • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The Baby BeeBee Bird by Diane Redfield Massie

Bedtime stories apps

Many of the bedtime stories children love have taken on a digitally interactive form through bedtime story apps. These apps bring the stories to life with lullabies, sound effects, and more as your infant or toddler explores the screen. We’ve included some of the most popular ones below.

nighty nightNighty Night by Fox & Sheep

Ages 1-4

With over 3 million downloads, this is the most popular bedtime story app. Besides Nighty Night, the folks at Fox & Sheep produce dozens of games, learning, and story apps for children.

nighty night circusNighty Night Circus by Fox & Sheep

Ages 1-4

The sequel to Nighty Night, this story takes children through each circus animal’s performance and bedtime routine.

goodnight safariGoodnight Safari by Polk Street Press

Ages 2-4

This story follows safari animals as they fall asleep. Children can go straight to individual pages with their favorite characters instead of following the story in order.

Online bedtime stories

Thanks to the internet, more stories are available to the public than ever before. Unpublished and amateur authors share their bedtime stories on online story databases. These databases offer original bedtime stories you can quickly download via PDF or ebook, sometimes for free, to share with your child.

  • Bedtime.com offers bedtime stories, poems, and prayers organized by genre and age level. Budding authors of all ages can submit their own stories to the sites.
  • StoryBerries is another online database of bedtime stories for children. Parents can select stories based on age, genre, length (5 to 20 minutes), and topic discussed (like bullying or empathy).
  • StoryCircle is a free database of bedtime stories. Authors can also upload their stories for free.
  • Tonight’s Bedtime Story focuses on classic fairytales. There are over 70 stories on the site to date.

Additional resources