Sleepy Bedtime Stories for Little Ones

Looking for that quintessential bedtime story that your little one will listen to every single night before going to bed? These books have gentle, rhythmic text, sweet illustrations, and timeless themes about bedtime and sleep.

Sylvia Long’s lovely new version of the classic lullaby Hush Little Baby has an amazing nature theme. A mother rabbit soothes her little one to bed by pointing out the natural beauty around them. A great improvement on the mercenary motif in the traditional version of this popular bedtime song!

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Each beautiful page of Time for Bed shows a mother baby and her animal preparing for bed. We love the gorgeous illustrations in this soothing book.

In Baby’s Boat, an adorable little boy sails across a sleepy sea in his moonboat, fishing with star bait. A sure recipe for sweet dreams.

In Little Donkey Close Your Eyes, animal mothers urge their babies to close their eyes in this simple, calming poem by beloved author Margaret Wise Brown.

A soothing poem about falling asleep by Eric Metaxas is complemented by Nancy Tillman’s gorgeous illustrations in It’s Time to Sleep, My Love. Animals around the world prepare for bed and coax their babies to sleep.

In The Sleep Ponies, a grandmother teaches her rosy-cheeked grandchild to calm her body and mind by picturing a herd of adorable ponies carrying her off to sweet dreams.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site is a favorite with the boys! Each might machine on a construction site prepares for bed and goes to sleep in this goodnight story.

Bear Can’t Sleep and Bear Snores On are two adorable books about a bear who can’t sleep (and then oversleeps!)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is the quintessential bedtime classic that children love hearing again and again.

Donald and his rabbit both can’t sleep! Donald begins to emphasize with his mother as he keeps trying to settle down his rambunctious rabbit friend in Are You Asleep, Rabbit?

In this gorgeously illustrated bedtime story, a little boy asks his dad how each animal on the farm goes to sleep. I love the patient, sleepy dad and the curious boy in Going to Sleep on the Farm.

Review of “When You Were Baptized”

As Catholic parents, we make sure our children are well-prepared for their First Holy Communion, Penance, and Confirmation. We discuss vocations and catechize about Holy Orders and Matrimony. But since Baptism is usually received at such a young age, it can be easy to overlook explaining the its importance to young children. If you’re looking for a beautiful, informative picture book to help your young children understand more about the symbolism, character, and rite of Baptism, check out When You Were Baptized, a new book from Liturgy Training Publications.

Catholic Baptism Baby Child
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Written directly to Catholic Children

My little children were immediately captivated by this beautifully illustrated picture book which speaks directly to the child. Written in the second person, When You Were Baptized methodically moves through the rite of Baptism, highlighting each symbol and action. Children learn what each oil symbolizes, why the priest blesses the holy water, what the white garment signifies, and more.

Simple Explanations for the Littlest Listeners

Note that this picture book does not event attempt to touch on the depths of symbolism behind each part of a Baptism. In a message for parents at the conclusion of the book, the author explains that very young children (under age 6) are not yet old enough for moral considerations. Therefore, this book is focused on the more natural symbolism involved in Baptism versus the moral and Biblical implications.

It’s apparent that the author’s Catechesis of the Good Shepherd background influenced the scope of this book. In the Catechesis, the first years are focused on cultivating wonder and love for God. This book with its simple explanations and overarching tone of welcoming the child into God’s family is true to the Catechesis vision.

A Great Baptismal Gift

This lovely picture book would be a wonderful gift for a godparent to give at a Baptism, or even to commemorate the Baptismal day of an older child. It also makes a wonderful addition to any Catholic family’s picture book library. See further information here on the Publisher’s website.

For more great books about Catholicism, the saints, sacraments, and more, check out this book list!

I received a copy of When You Were Baptized from Liturgy Training Publications in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Good ABC Books for Catholic Preschoolers

You may not be surprised that I’ve taken a book-based approach to teaching my preschoolers the ABC’s. This method is super simple: you just make sure to regularly read your toddler or preschooler several ABC books, pointing to the letters and making the sounds before reading the text on each page. My kids have learned letter sounds and recognition easily this way without any formal teaching needed. Here are some of our favorite alphabet books!

Alison’s Zinnia is one of my children’s favorite alphabet books, and mine too! Each page has a detailed illustration of a flower beginning with a particular letter. This is a wonderful way to learn flower and letter recognition at the same time. Also, I really appreciate that even the difficult letters like X have a flower beginning with that letter!

 

 


A Paddling of Ducks: Animals in Groups from A to Z is a really fun book which teaches collective nouns and the alphabet. The illustrations of each letter play on the literal meaning of the collective nouns, which I found hilarious!

 

 


Albert’s Alphabet is a wonderfully creative alphabet book by Leslie Tryon. There is almost no formal text, but my children and I always enjoy narrating our own story about Albert’s clever use of materials to build a super-sized alphabet on the playground.

 

 

 


Kipper’s A to Z: An Alphabet Adventure is both funny and educational. Even my 18 month old appreciates the gentle humor and lively illustrations from Mick Inkpen.

 

 

 

 


Little Bear’s Alphabet is written and illustrated by one of our favorite picture book authors, Jane Hissey. Children who already love Old Bear will enjoy this introduction to the alphabet which features Jane Hissey’s cast of stuffed animal friends.

 

 

 


We all enjoy the incredibly realistic illustrations in A to Z of Animals, a Wildlife Alphabet. This is one you have to buy used, but so worth it! It also includes a section at the end of the book with information about each animal featured.

 

 

 

 

The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta was a big hit with my oldest son at about age 3. He memorized most of the book in no time, and we both learned a lot of the appropriate technical names for large machines!

 

 


D is for Dump Truck: A Construction Alphabet is a story style alphabet book about a family building a tree house. It’s a nice little poetic story about teamwork.

 

 

 

A You’re Adorable is the perfect board book for introducing the alphabet to very young children. A simple little rhyme which reinforces how much we love our little ones!

 

 

 

K Is for Kiss Good Night is a sweet concept of using a calming bedtime routine to run through the alphabet. I like that this is a multi-racial book too featuring children of different nationalities.

 


On Market Street, written by Anita Lobel and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, is a simple story with highly detailed illustrations which my children will spend long periods of time examining.

 

 

 

 


Eating the Alphabet is great for introducing the letters and learning about lots of unusual fruits and vegetables.

 

 

 

 


I also want to mention Catholic Icing, a great Catholic preschool curriculum which combines teaching the ABC’s with religion and simple arts and crafts!

Good Christmas Books for Catholic Kids

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Advent is nearly upon us!  As we turn our thoughts to preparing for this blessed season, here is a merry miscellany of Christmas books to encourage the true spirit of Christmas in your home.  I hope you enjoy reading these beautifully illustrated versions of the Christmas story, stories about popular saints, Advent-calendar style Christmas collections, and stories about the origins of various Christmas symbols and traditions.  With a story here for everyone from the very young to those only young at heart, these books are also great to give as gifts!

Board books for the very young:

Who is Coming to Our House? has a gentle, rhythmic text which details the animals preparing their barn for Christ’s coming.

The Story of Christmas is a simple retelling of the Christmas story which I particularly like because of its emphasis on Jesus’ birthday as the reason for Christmas and a short explanation of why we give gifts at Christmas: “to show our love.”

Christmas in the Manger is a very simple rhyming version of the Christmas story.

Picture books for young and old:
The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale is a whimsical story about a baker who learns that sometimes a dozen is really 13, thanks to St. Nicholas’ intervention. This book is perfect for reading on St. Nicholas’ Day prior to decorating gingerbread St. Nicholas cookies!

Saint Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins is my favorite version of the true story of St. Nicholas. This book’s iconography is a fitting visual companion to the story’s focus on Nicholas’ desire to be an icon of Christ, imitating his Lord in word and deed.

The Cobweb Curtain: A Christmas Story is a unique Christmas story about a tiny spider who helps save the Christ Child from Herod’s soldiers. The theme of the littlest helping and a fun connection to tinsel make this one worth buying.

The Legend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of Our Favorite Christmas Candy is another fun explanation of a favorite Christmas tradition: candy canes. Very young children can understand this simple story with its explanation of the Christian symbolism of candy canes.

The Legend of the Poinsettia is another story to explain a Christmas symbol. This legend offers one explanation of the pointsettia: how little Lucida’s selfless, humble gift of weeds to the Christ Child is miraculously transformed to bright red star flowers.

All for the Newborn Baby is a sweet lullaby sung by the Blessed Virgin to Jesus, describing how all of nature is rejoicing at His coming.

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger is a favorite of mine. This adorable, wee little mouse named Mortimer hears the Christmas story read and decides to give up his bed for the baby Jesus in the family nativity scene.

The Nativity combines the Nativity story from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke with beautiful, illuminated manuscript style illustrations.

Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing uses the story of a little boy who makes his own infant Jesus statue to introduce your child to an Italian tradition in which the Pope offers a special blessing on the third Sunday of advent to all the infant Jesus figures in St. Peter’s Square.

Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing

Little Star is the story of how only the humblest, small star can see past the newborn king’s humble surroundings and recognize his kingship.

The Christmas Candle is a fanciful take on what might happen if a candle gave one Christ’s eyes, and made one see each stranger as a loved family member.

The Christmas Candle

 

Mary, Did You Know?: The Story of God’s Great Plan takes a fresh look at this favorite Christmas carol, offering Scripture verses and interpretive pictures to accompany the verses.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a story of how a small boy and his mother’s kindness helps a “scrooge” to recover and bring about a Christmas miracle.

Jacob’s Gift is a Max Lucado story about a young carpenter’s apprentice who learns to see Christ in those he meets.

The Christmas Horse and the Three Wise Men is a wonderful imaginative story about three animals, a horse, an elephant, and a camel who must work together using their unique skills to bring the Wise Men to the infant Jesus.

The Three Gifts of Christmas with Audio CD is a wonderful look at how a spoiled princess is guided by her wise parents to learn lessons about selflessness, sympathy, and the joy of giving.

The Crippled Lamb is a touching story about God’s special plan for even the littlest and weakest creatures.

Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers is the Christmas story retold from an angel’s perspective with beautiful, light-filled illustrations.

The Donkey’s Dream chronicles the dreams the donkey who carried a pregnant Mary dreamed, while exploring some of Mary’s titles. Beautiful illustrations again!

Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree is a powerful story which stars Saint Boniface smiting down the oak tree the pagans worship, and explains the miraculous origins of the linking of evergreen trees with Christ’s birth.

Lucia, Saint of Light is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the legend of Saint Lucia and how her feast is celebrated in Sweden.

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale is a simple Christmas story young children will love about the kind animals making room for smaller and smaller animals, and eventually the Christ Child.

Legend of the Christmas Stocking is a feel-good inspiration story of a young boy who chooses to use his hard-earned savings to bring joy to poor children at Christmas.

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus’ Birth is a beautifully illustrated story about young Jack learning from his gentle mother the true meaning of Christmas as they bake Christmas cookies to give to the poor.

The Last Straw is the story of Hoshmakaka the camel (kids love this story just for that name) who must learn humility to see the Christ Child.

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona is Tomie de Paola’s beloved story of a village coming together to make Christmas special for an old woman.

Who Was Born This Special Day? is a very simple story for preschoolers as the animals determine by process of elimination that it is the Christ Child who was born on Christmas day.

Christmas from Heaven: The True Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber is an inspiring true story about a World War II Pilot who dropped candy to the German children as a sign of hope and good will.

Saint Francis and the Nativity offers a possible explanation of how the tradition of Nativity scenes came to be: through the collaboration of Saint Francis of Assisi and a simple shepherd boy.

The Miracle of St. Nicholas is the story of a miraculous Christmas in war-torn Russia brought about by the faith of a small boy, the intercession of St. Nicholas, and a community coming together.

The Tiny Star: The Greatest Star the World Has Ever Seen! can be enjoyed by even very young children, who will love its message that even the littlest can have an important task.

Apple Tree Christmas is a charming story about a family who lives above a barn and practices the true spirit of Christmas.

Stations of the Nativity is a series of meditations on fourteen events leading up to the birth of Christ. Complete with reflections and prayers, this can be prayed similar to the Stations of the Cross.

The Trees Kneel at Christmas is a beautiful, humorous story of two Lebanese immigrant children who hope to see the miracle of the trees kneeling that their Grandmother told them happened in Lebanon.

Destination: Bethlehem is an advent book with twenty four chapters, one to read each evening in December, as you accompany the characters through Palestine on a journey to Bethlehem, meeting many Bible characters along the way. Perfect for a family read-aloud!

The Story Of The Other Wise Man is for an older reader. This beloved story by Henry Van Dyke is about a fourth wise man who never does get to see baby Jesus, but instead beautifully illustrates the Bible message of seeing and serving Christ in those one meets on one’s journey.

Waiting for Christmas: Stories and Activities for Advent is a specifically Catholic resource focused on various ways of celebrating Advent: stories, songs, poems, and activities.

24 Christmas Stories to Welcome Jesus is, as the name implies, a story a day until Christmas collection. The stories range from the various gospel accounts of the Nativity to Christmas stories and traditions from around the world.

Why the Chimes Rang and Other Stories are old stories from the beginning of the twentieth century which illustrate the true spirit of Christmas.

Why the Chimes Rang: A Christmas Classic

 

Kersti and Saint Nicholas is by Hilda Van Stockum, one of my very favorite children’s authors, and therefore simply a joy to read. Four-year-old Kersti knows she falls into the naughty category, but her appeal to the good bishop on behalf of all the little ones who struggle to be good is a wonderful illustration of mercy versus strict judgment.

Kersti and Saint Nicholas

 

The Gift of the Magi is a famous O. Henry short story about sacrifice, true love, and the true meaning of Christmas.

Good Poetry for Little Catholic Kids 

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Children need to hear poetry and rhymes from a very young age in order to learn the rhythm and flow of the English language. Additionally, exposure to poetry from a young age can help foster a lifelong appreciation for this form of literature.

I like to start my toddlers off with a charmingly illustrated book of nursery rhymes such asNursery Rhyme Treasury or Ring O’ Roses: Nursery Rhymes, Action Rhymes, and Lullabies, both illustrated by Priscilla Lamont.

When they are a bit older, 2 or 3, they love Shirley Hughes’ Out and About: A First Book of Poems, which has poems organized by season. Of course, you also get the benefit of Hughes’ distinctive, detailed illustrations which accompany each poem. Her other poetry collection, Rhymes for Annie Rose is fun for fans of Alfie and Annie Rose, and celebrates sibling play and mundane family life.

Our four year old loves Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses. These poems were intended for children, written with simple themes and commonplace similes that children will readily grasp, but many are still mini masterpieces. They make great first exercises in memorization.

<Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and Girls is a wealth of poems by a large variety of authors to read aloud, handily organized by subject.

Pied Beauty: A Children’s Book attempts with some success to make a wonderful poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins accessible to young children. Breaking the poem down line by line, this book offers imagery and word definitions to help your children understand.

Check out more of my book lists for Little Catholic Kids!

Good books for…. Catholic 2 to 3 year olds

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At two to three years old, children have a longer attention span and a greater appreciation for detailed illustrations. There are so many wonderful books for this age!

Giving is a wonderful conversation piece about all the ways one can give, as described by a little girl and illustrated by the ever-charming Shirley Hughes.
Themes: giving, thankfulness, sharing

Blueberries for Sal is possibly my favorite book for two year olds. Little Sal and little bear learn that they should stay close to their mommies, even if yummy berries are tempting!
Themes: obedience, courage

Baby’s Boat is a luminous bedtime story we love describing a dream voyage on a moon-boat.
Themes: bedtime, poetic language

Little Donkey Close Your Eyes is by the great Margaret Wise Brown. Animals around the world settle down for bed in their own ways as their mothers urge them to close their eyes.
Themes: bedtime, animals, mothers

A Home in the Barn is another favorite by Margaret Wise Brown with lovely illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney. This book describes the coming of winter and how various farm animals prepare for the cold and wind.
Themes: winter, opposites, onomatopoeia

Peter finds treasures on his walk, but has no pockets to put them in! Mommy saves the day by sewing new ones on in Peter’s Pockets
Themes: sharing, creativity

Hush Little Baby is a nature-focused variation on the traditional rhyme, and is the version we sing in our house.
Themes: mother love, enjoying nature

For the baby loving toddler, Everywhere Babies is sure to be a favorite with its descriptions of everything baby.
Themes: loving babies

When the Rooster Crowed is a toddler favorite about the farm animals trying to wake up the sleepy farmer.
Themes: persistence, sloth, patience

Shirley Hughes’ Alfie’s Feet is a simple but beloved story in which Alfie gets new boots and solves the mystery of why they feel funny.
Themes: growing, calmly solving problems, enjoying the outdoors

Another popular Alfie story, Alfie Gets in First, is a cautionary tale warning children against locking doors. But don’t worry it has a happy ending!
Themes: obedience, staying calm in an emergency

Little Lamb to the Rescue, one of the most beautiful picture books we own, is the story of a little lamb helping an even littler bird.
Themes: helping, friendship

In Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider: A Lift-the-Flap Book (The World of Eric Carle), the spider works despite all distracions to build a beautiful web. Lift the flaps on each page are fun for little ones.
Themes: industriousness, perseverance

Little Baby Buttercup is a charming recounting by a loving mother of her day with her little girl. This sweet book is a must read to your little girl!
Themes: a mother’s love for her child

Crocodaddy is one for the daddies and sons! A little boy and his father play at a pond, using their imaginations to make an enjoyable day even funner.
Themes: using your imagination, daddy-son bonding

In Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear, Jesse Bear, a very active little bear, learns about all the times one shouldn’t get wet, and finally when one should!
Themes: obedience, patience

Jan Brett’s illustrations in The Hat are, as always, worthy of lengthy study. In this story Hedgehog struggles to get untangled from a stocking, and Lisa tries to find her missing clothes.
Themes: perseverance, being kind to others

Little Mommy is a good old story of a little girl caring for her dolls. It’s sure to delight any little mommy!
Themes: motherliness

Another good old story, The curious little Kitten details the adventure of a very curious little kitten! It is a good cautionary tale to show the dangers of too much curiosity.
Themes: curiosity, persistence

Once Upon a Cloud is a modern tale with illustrations to delight little princesses and a fanciful story of a little girl going on a magic carpet ride to find the perfect gift for her mother.
Themes: giving

Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake is a delectable, gentle story about a little mouse trying to get a huge cupcake home, with some help from his hungry friends.
Themes: sharing, generosity

Illustrated by the marvellous Hilda Van Stockum, Pamela Walks the Dog is a hilarious little book about Pamela’s lengthy preparations to take her non-existent dog for a walk.

“So she took her little sister instead.”

Themes: perseverance, creativity

 

Also, check out my book list of specifically Catholic books for Catholic Preschoolers and Kindergarteners .

Have a new baby on the way? Check out my list Good Books for… Preparing Catholic Kids for a New Baby!

Good Books for… Catholic 1 to 2 Year Olds

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We start reading young around here! By the time our kids have their first birthday, they are usually happy listening to me read simple picture books. As always, my criteria include an inspiring theme, beautiful illustrations, and that my children approved. These books are great read alouds for a 1 to 2 year old, and preschoolers will also enjoy them.

What Did Baby Jesus Do? is a beautifully illustrated little board book talking about Jesus’ childhood.
Themes: Jesus was God and man

Who is Coming to Our House? is a sweet board book which shows the barn animals preparing for baby Jesus’ arrival.
Themes: Jesus coming, Christmas

The Word of the Lord and Cloud of Witnesses are part of a new series of board books from Katie Warner aimed at exposing the littlest Catholics to religious artwork and Catholic teaching! These are quality books that would make great gifts for a Baptism or baby shower.
Themes: Bible, Jesus, Catholic Faith, Saints

Bear Wants More  is a short rhyming board book about a very hungry bear.
Themes: friendship, kindness

The Happy Man and His Dump Truck , always a favorite with my children, is a fanciful story of some animal friends’ trip.
Themes:  good manners, a cheerful attitude

Baby Listens (Little Golden Book) helps teach little ones about their senses as baby experiences the sounds around him. Lots of onomatopoeic words keep the youngest readers engaged.
Themes: attentiveness to the world around us

Going to Sleep on the Farm, with its beautiful illustrations of farm life, is a simple story of a father soothing his son to sleep.
Themes: patience (for parents!)

Ask Mr. Bear is a story about a little boy searching for the perfect gift for his mother with some help from his animal friends.
Themes: persistence, a giving spirit

Amy loves the wind and Amy loves the sun are sweet little old books about a toddler encountering the outdoors with her mother.
Themes: enjoying nature

Biscuit Storybook Collection stories are somewhat repetitive but so loved by my children that I had to include them!
Themes: friendship, gentleness to animals, forgiveness

Jamberry‘s gentle rhymes and clever illustrations make it another much loved and well worn toddler favorite around here. It is a rollicking little tale of a boy and bear searching for berries.
Themes: enjoying nature, a cheerful attitude in adversity

Big Red Barn is a classic Margaret Wise Brown story, less well known than Goodnight Moon but equally enjoyable. Big Red Barn describes barnyard life, while Goodnight, Moon focuses on a room at bedtime.
Themes: attention to the world around us, whether outdoors or just in our own room

Pat the Bunny (Touch and Feel Book) is a great early book because it provides sensory stimulation which can engage a reluctant listener. Siblings Paul and Judy explore their house along with your child.
Themes: sibling love, attentiveness to sensory information

As your child approaches age 2, definitely move on to the books on my list for 2 to 3 year olds!