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Reading Bedtime Stories: When Should You Read a Bedtime Story?

reading bedtime stories

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Reading bedtime stories are a long‑held tradition across many cultures. It's part of a familiar routine for many families and usually includes a cozy combination of bath time, a change into pajamas, teeth brushing, and then at last: story time.

Peter Gorski, MD, chair of the early childhood committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “To best confer reading's cognitive benefits, a child's experiences with books should be enjoyable. More than anything, you want him to associate reading with emotional warmth and fun.”

The key is to maximize this rare quiet time at the end of the day by making it positive, fun and most of all enjoyable for both you and your child. The right bedtime story is key as well. You can click here to access our suggested bedtime stories below.

But at what age should you start reading bedtime stories to your child? And when exactly? Before their bath? Or right before they go to bed? Let's take a look at the positive benefits of bedtime stories and the best time to start your bedtime reading tradition with your little one.

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When should you start reading bedtime stories to your child?

It’s never too early to start reading bedtime stories to your child, so don’t be afraid to snuggle up with your little bub and your favorite childhood read.

Black and white books are easier for young infants to see and identify color, while soft fabric books are great for their little fingers to grab and squish. Board books are also wonderful for younger children and toddlers as well, and they’re sturdy enough to hold up to the toughest little teethers and tumultuous toddlers around! As your child grows you can progress to longer stories with less pictures and then chapter books, taking turns reading each page.

When is the best time to read a bedtime story?

Choosing the right time can be tricky. Try and pick a time that works best for you and your child, so that you’re both able to relax and focus on story time together.

Many families like to read after all of the other bedtime duties have been taken care of (i.e. after the bath, teeth brushing and pajamas have been put on), so that it’s the last thing they do before tucking their child into bed. For some children this works great, but if you’ve got a sleepy little one who can’t keep their eyes open during story time, perhaps try reading before bath time when they’re a little more alert.

Once you’ve found your sweet-spot, make sure to stick to your routine and you’ll have your very own bedtime story tradition in no time!

Benefits of reading bedtime stories

Now that you know when to start reading to your child and at precisely what time, let’s explore why it’s important to read bedtime stories with your little one.

From bonding and increasing reading skills to building an understanding of the world and nurturing a love for reading, stories can also be used as a vehicle for conversation. Children's bedtime stories carry a range of benefits for both children and their parents:

1.Promotes bonding

Reading to your child requires a certain amount of closeness. Many parents snuggle in tight with their little ones while reading a bedtime story, which helps to establish connection and allow for key bonding time.

2.Increases reading skills

Reading a bedtime story (or two or three!) to your child each night will help to develop their vocabulary as well as their reading comprehension and fluency. The more you read to your child the more they are able to improve upon all five components of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension.

3.Helps build an understanding of the world

Kids' bedtime stories can open your child up to a world that is completely different to their own. Through stories they can learn about faraway places, real or imagined, thus helping them to develop new perspectives that are beyond their own.

4.Can be used as a platform for conversation

Taking the time to read a children's bedtime story each night can provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss different topics with your child. You can talk about the characters in the story and use it as a segue to ask them questions about how they would handle the situation or how it makes them feel. Talking through the story is also a great way to improve their reading comprehension.

5.Nurtures a love for reading

Creating a bedtime story routine will help to create positive associations with reading. By establishing a safe and loving environment, your child will come to love story time and develop fond memories, making them more likely to continue reading for pleasure in the future.

Learn more about how to make reading fun here.

Top bedtime story tips

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    Establish a routine – Make bedtime stories a regular part of your bedtime routine, sticking to generally the same order each night. Getting children ready for bed first (i.e. bath, brushing teeth, etc.) will help them to focus and wind down during story time, but it’s best to pay attention to your child’s cues to decide when story time works best for them. (See when the best time to read bedtime stories is above).

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    Choose a quiet and comfy spot – Eliminate distractions for the both of you with a noise‑free spot you can relax in.

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    Let your child choose stories – Older children will delight in choosing their own stories. For babies, choose soft touchy‑feely books or black and white high contrast books, which are interesting and easier for babies to focus on.

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    Involve your child – Make sure to ask them questions about the pictures in each book and relate it to their everyday life.

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    Have fun – Don't be afraid to do silly voices and funny sounds! The more fun you have together, the more likely they'll want to keep reading.

Recommended bedtime stories

All of the children's books below can be found in the Reading Eggs library. Sign up for your free trial here and enjoy instant access to over 3000 kids' bedtime stories, making bedtime reading fun for years to come.

  • bedtime-stories-bella-ebook-201907

    Bella Goes to Bed

    It's time for bed, but Bella wants to play! This engaging book series follows the adventures of Bella the ginger kitten. She loves dress‑ups, making new friends, and exploring the world. But at the end of the day, she wants to snuggle up at home. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)

  • bedtime-stories-bear-ebook-201907

    Where is Bear?

    It's been a busy day and Reggie is very sleepy. The only thing is, he can't find his favorite toy – Bear! This gorgeously illustrated series invites children into Reggie's world, promoting an interest in new experiences. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)

  • bedtime-stories-baa-baa-ebook-201907

    Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

    You can find a range of Mother Goose stories in the Reading Eggs Junior Library, perfect for toddlers! These classic stories are great for building rhythm and phonemic awareness, and the colorful pictures are a delight for young readers. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)

  • bedtime-stories-ebook-201907


    It's bedtime for Baby Bear. What's his routine before going to bed? Follow along with the bear‑y adventurous bears. What will they get up to next? The series fosters an early enjoyment of reading and builds early reading skills in young children. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)

  • bedtime-stories-penguins-ebook-201907

    Five Little Penguins

    Five little penguins waddling down the hill. One toppled over and took a spill! These rhyming picture books tell stories of animals, people and places, helping to build connections between books and everyday activities while developing phonemic awareness. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)

  • bedtime-stories-koala-ebook-201907

    Baby Koalas Bedtime

    Baby Koala doesn't want to go to bed and gets up to a bit of mischief instead! Your child will love the colorful wildlife photographs accompanied by simple text and an easy‑to‑follow storyline. The repetition of sounds and actions encourage children to join in.

  • bedtime-stories-hare-tortoise-ebook-201907

    The Hare and the Tortoise

    This timeless tale has been lovingly passed down through the generations. The speedy hare challenges the slow tortoise to a race. Who will win? Discover a range of classic children's stories in the ABC Reading Eggs library.

  • bedtime-stories-something-special-ebook-201907

    Something Special

    River and Pebble want something special to put in their tree house. Follow them on their hunt and enjoy the detailed, dreamlike paintings that bring this journey to life. The questions at the end of the book are perfect for sparking conversation.

  • bedtime-stories-dancing-tree-ebook-201907

    The Dancing Tree

    Sprig has one night to choose her forever spot in the Fairy Forest. There she'll grow big, strong, and magical. Where will her forever spot be? This wonderful series features full‑color illustrations and short chapters that show young readers the importance of perseverance, courage, and the value of being a good friend.

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