Our Bedtime Reading Routine + Favorite Books


Yes, it’s me, the anti-bedtime mom who has evolved into the bedtime-routine-enforcer. I am blaming it on this good ol’ time of year where we have to experience time change, shortened days and rain, rain all the days long. Winter is a beast to those with small children who don’t go to school and who have the life goal of tearing apart a house in two hours. By 5pm every evening, I am counting down the minutes until I can start our new bedtime routine, put the hoodlums to down to slumber, and start collecting the 1,000 Nerf bullets we bought for a song on Amazon. There is a blessing, parents, that the guns only come with two bullets at the store. Don’t. Get. Any. More. 

We started our routine at the beginning of December because our family had the goal of reading an Advent verse every evening until Christmas Day. My husband built a rustic tree which held a tag for each day, that we replaced with an ornament each night, so that by Christmas the whole tree would be decorated. It was also a count down to Christmas, which helped tremendously with the hourly questions of “How many more days until Christmas??” What I didn’t anticipate was how important the turn taking would be for each child to get to take off the tag and to pick which ornament with which to replace it. The gloating, the bragging, the anticipation when it was each kid’s day made it impossible to skip any of our evening readings. The loss of a turn would have been a cruelty, so much so that we had to bring the entire tree, tags and ornaments to Grandma’s house when we spent the night one evening.

The effects have been lasting, however, and it has been wonderful.

We also brushed our teeth after reading together, and I have never been able to say that my kids have brushed their teeth for 25 days straight, but I can now! It’s going to be a great dental visit next month. Now, we are so used to getting jammies on by 7:45, reading and going over our day’s events, praying, brushing teeth, and getting in bed by 8:15, that I get a little agitated when we find ourselves up later. We still stay out later if we have an event of some sort, but since we don’t have the chance to be outside playing until 8pm, it makes sense to be sleeping when it’s dark.

Winter is a great time for reading and imagining, dreaming of anything else than the frigid, wet, dead world outside in January. My boys are much more willing to curl up on the couch with me and have patience to listen when the outdoors isn’t calling them incessantly.

Below are some of our favorite read-alouds that we have been working through this year. Of course, most are beyond the two and the three year old comprehension, but we noticed that they enjoy laying still and listening to reading, rather than having to just fall asleep by themselves. Which is to them, the worst form of torture we could think of.  

The Hardy Boys

I was never a Baby-Sitters Club, Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew reader (#boxcarchildrenforlife), but the Fireman came home from a trip to McKay’s with this and declared he was going to start reading it to them. So, it is Daddy’s thing and I try not listen very well because I can’t cheat on the Boxcar Children, since they were the most brilliant kids detectives I knew. 


The Little House Series                               

I have a feeling this is why the Hardy Boys came in to house one day. Personally, I feel like the Little House books are much more exciting, and hardly “girl-ish” since Pa is killing wildcats, building houses with two hands and fighting off bears, but a lack of male characters may have pushed the Fireman into desperation. We have read through Little House in the Woods and Farmer Boy, both of which have started many conversations about how pioneers lived, why we live differently, and vocabulary teaching. 

My Side of the Mountain

So much love for this book. One of my little daydreams is finding one of the boys immersed in it in the distant future when (hopefully) they learn to read. I remember when my mom first read it to me, and when my younger brother couldn’t put it down when she introduced it to him. It’s a novel, but reads so real that I remember imagining that I really could run away from home and live in the woods, if I brought Jean Craighead George with me as a guide. We haven’t made it all the way through yet, and the thrill has yet to set in on them, but I enjoy reading through it, so it stays on the shelf. 

The Chronicles of Narnia

It’s C.S. Lewis, so it has to be on the list. We started the series after visiting my brother’s family, whose girls had pretend shields and swords, and fought the dragon (their 18 month old brother) up the mountain (the stairs) to find the treasure. I started it as soon as we got home. Even so, Ninja Turtles and Avengers reign supreme in the imaginative world at our house…weep, weep, weep. But it is beautiful writing, a fantastic story, and the kind of literature I want to be whispered into their sleepy ears.

The last two books we use as our devotionals, parts of the Bible that we read each day to teach our children what we both believe and try live out in our lives. 

The Ology

We just started this book because it was on the boys’ Christmas list, but came highly recommended by several of my friends with older children. We appreciate how the theology of Christianity is broken down into children’s language to be understandable and applicable. Honestly, we have learned as well, and helps us explain concepts we would have never thought to teach to our kids at such a young age. 

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden

This is the entire story of the Bible, written in ten short chapters, which covers the complete meta-narrative of how the Bible is completely one story, woven together by many authors through one Diety. My kids love the far-out illustrations which appear to me a little weird but they get them and fight over looking at it, so that’s cool with me. 

Those are our top read aloud books, though there are so many, many more which could make the list. Reading with your kids does seem like such a drag sometimes, but I am always surprised at how much my rowdy boys comprehend and enjoy this fruitful practice. And I am hoping it gives them good thoughts to take with them to sleep, since we have been up more nights that I can count with some crazy cartoon character fears from a random TV show or commercial. Thank you Disney, for the unnatural fear of llamas that The Emperor’s New Groove has created in my child. 

Send some book recommendations my way if you have found something your kids can’t get enough of — we hope to foster the love of reading as best we can!