Bedtime Stories Our Son & Us Loved to Read Together

“The more that you read, the more things you’ll know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

– Dr. Seuss

On a recent Friday evening, we got home late from McDonald’s PlaySpace. After a long day at work, I was just done. We put T straight to bed and skipped our routine of reading books. I laid on my bed and started to catch up on brainless entertainment sites, when he shouted from his room, “Papa, you forgot to read me stories!” As tired as I was, I begrudgingly yet happily obliged.

Research consistently shows the importance of early literacy and for caregivers to read to children at home. As noted by the American Library Association, a study of 3 to 5 year olds who had been read to at least three times per week found the children were two times more likely to recognize all letters, have word-sight recognition, and understand words in context.

Bedtime stories was a routine my hubby and I felt was important to introduce to T, especially when he learned he was behind in his speech and language development.

Reading to T is now one of my favourite parts of the day. I have fond memories of the early days when he’d sit on my lap, my arms wrapped around his tiny frame and book in hand. These days, he sits next to me on his bed, sometimes with rapt attention; other times, restless and fidgety.

It’s been such a joy watching his speech and language, vocabulary, print recognition, and imagination grow through books. I love when he now asks questions or makes connections about the stories or to watch in silent amusement as he incorporates the characters into his pretend play, like a recent time when he wrapped himself in a blanket pretending he’s a caterpillar spinning into a cocoon.

We’re lucky to have lots of book-loving family and friends – and I’m also a librarian, so I’m surrounded by books. We’ve been gifted or have borrowed many books over the years and here are a few books that T has particularly loved reading over and over again or that hold a sentimental value for me.

First 100 Words (Bright Baby) by Roger Priddy

This board book, gifted to us by the Surrey Place, holds a special place in my heart, because T and I spent time every day in his toddler years going through every word on each page, trying to build his vocabulary. It was such a joy the first time he correctly pointed to every word on the page and when the finger pointing became vocalized words, such as “ball,” “cat,” and “dog.”

Daddy, Papa and Me by Lesléa Newman

Good children’s books help drive inclusion by showing the diverse realities of today’s families. Two friends separately gifted us a copy each of this wonderful board book about a day in the busy life of a toddler and his two fathers. Amusingly, the two illustrated dads could kinda pass for my hubby and I.

Tickle by Leslie Patricelli

A short but fun board book about a baby that loved to be tickled by his parents. My hubby and I had a lot of fun reading this and we made it very interactive with lots of tickles. T has long outgrown this book but he is still always in the mood and desire to be tickled by his two tickle monster daddies.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This lovely board book was one of the first stories that had a real beginning, middle and end that T and I read, telling the story of an egg that hatched into a caterpillar that ate, ate and ate until he spun into a cocoon and emerged as a beautiful butterfly. T loved the tactile elements, such as putting his finger on the holes of the hard pages that represented the hungry caterpillars’ ravenous path.

Grumpy Cat by Britta Teckentrup

Not to be confused with the now deceased Internet sensation, this board book tells the story of a curmudgeonly cat who meets an orange kitten one night that would not leave him alone. A wonderful story about friendship and it was nice for T to draw the parallels between the two fictional cats with his two real-life feline siblings at home.

Toronto ABC by Paul Covello

This board book was one of the first ABC books that T and I read and helped him to start learning about his alphabets. Major bonus points that it incorporated the landmarks of our city. It’s been fun over the years for our family to take T to these landmarks, such as Toronto Island (I), Niagara Falls (N), and CN Tower (T) and for him to make those connections from early reading memories.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

This bestselling classic also helped introduce T to his alphabets – upper and lower case. It’s a silly book, written so you can read it with a lyrical and upbeat rhythm and rhyme. I remember laughing out loud one night when T said, “I want Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!” The combination of those four words and his bratty demanding voice still makes me chuckle when I think about it.

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

This nursery rhyme classic was a favourite, because of its silly nature and it was also one of the first picture books that introduced T to the idea of a predictive and repetitive narrative structure, as the story repeated itself until five monkeys were whittled down to one monkey. I remember fondly when I’d let him scream out the last time the doctor said, “NO MORE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED!”

Zoomberry by Dennis Lee

Dennis Lee’s poetry has a lyrical whimsy to them. This story of a boy who drifts off into a magical land during bedtime is also beautifully illustrated by Dusan Petricic, whose work I love. It was one of the first books that made T aware of rhyming structures. I miss his sweet toddler voice reciting along with me, “Zoomberry, zoomberry, zoomberry pie.”

Even Firefighters Go to the Potty by Naomi Wax and Wendy Wax

This silly flap book was recommended to us by the special needs resource consultant from Community Living Toronto that was working with T in the Montessori. Potty training was excruciatingly painful for my hubby and I and this book provided a humorous encouragement to drive the point home to T. It didn’t quite do the trick, but this was still quite fun to read together. I’m glad to say that potty training is now a distant memory!

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield

A young Chris dreams of being an astronaut but is afraid of monsters in the dark. He is inspired to overcome his fear the evening he watches the first landing on the moon. Life was imitating art for us, because we started to read this story when we were having difficulties with sleep training and T not being able to fall asleep without one of us sitting with him. Thankfully, those days are behind us!

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

I bought this picture book for my hubby in 2005, when it was first published. It tells the real-life story of two male penguins who helped hatch an egg and raise the penguin. It was a nice full circle moment to share this story with T; friends unknowingly bought T his second copy. During a recent reading, T pointed to the penguins and said, “That’s daddy, papa and (T).” Heart-melting, I tell ya!

The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

This hilarious book is one of the many many gems we borrowed from the library and tells the story of an impatient caterpillar who learns self control and impulse control through a journey to becoming a butterfly. It was also the first book that T and I read that uses a comic book – word bubbles – format. I’m a huge comic book and graphic novel reader, so it makes me happy to see him enjoy this format.

Where’s Waldo? by Martin Handford

It’s hard for me to articulate what a big deal it is for a hyperactive child like T to sit down and want to look through a dizzying page to find Waldo. He hasn’t found him on his own yet, but I chuckle when I think about the time I found and pointed out Waldo to T and he asked to try it. He didn’t find Waldo and asked me to point him out again. Then he asked to try again. As he skimmed the page, I said quite sarcastically that Waldo has not moved. Then he screams loudly, “FOUND HIM!”

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Getting T to sit for a prolonged period is always a challenge, so it speaks to the enduring and special magic of Dr. Seuss when a lengthy, silly and non-sensical poem could capture T’s attention from start to end. There were nights when I’d be so tired that I would rather poke my eyes out than read a Dr. Seuss book, so I had to hide these books at one point. But I have to admit that when I’m in the mood, this book – with its insane, silly, staccato, rhyming rhythm – is a lot of fun to read out loud. When I have my act together one day, I want to actually make green eggs for T’s breakfast just for fun.

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