How to Read a Bedtime Story

How to Read a Bedtime Story

Reading to a child is a great way to spend time together. Reading has been shown to increase a child's vocabulary and build an emotional attachment between caregiver and child. You can start reading bedtime stories to your child as an infant, and keep reading together as long as they show an interest.


[Edit]Reading Bedtime Stories to a Baby

  1. Start early. It might seem silly to read to your baby before they understand language or can focus on the pictures in a book. But reading to your baby at a young age will associate the warmth and comfort of your presence with the experience of reading, which might help to ensure that they grow into a book lover.
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    • Even in the womb, a baby can hear your voice and begin to associate it with you. As a newborn, your baby will love hearing the sound of your voice and will also learn the cadence of language.
  2. Make stories a part of your daily bedtime routine. Having a routine at bedtime can help your baby settle into sleep easier and ensure that they sleep longer. It's also a great time to sit and cuddle together, and help your baby wind down from the day.
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    • Consider a nightly bath, pajamas, a story, and then bed. Try to do the same routine each night at about the same time.[1]
    • Feel free to adjust the story to fit your baby’s mood. You can skip over certain parts, paraphrase the action in the pictures, or act out the story.[2]
  3. Try classic books for babies. Your baby can't understand words or follow a complicated story, so choose a book that is beautiful or engaging to look at and interesting to hear. The sounds of the words themselves can be educational to your child, who is just learning about language. Choose a book with a gentle, rhyming cadence. Also look for a book that is brief, since a baby won't have a long attention span when they're tired in the evening.
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    • Some great English-language bedtime stories for babies include Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, and Time for Bed by Mem Fox.[3]
  4. Read to babies in a gentle, relaxing voice. Try to vary your pitch a bit as you read to keep your baby's attention and help them understand the flow of language. Because it is bedtime, avoid reading stories that are too active or upbeat. These might overstimulate a sleepy baby and make it harder for them to fall asleep.
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[Edit]Reading Bedtime Stories to a Toddler or Preschooler

  1. Let your child choose the book. There are several ways you might do this, depending on your child's personality and how well they are able to choose from a selection of books.
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    • Take your child to the library and let them choose several picture books to bring home. For a child who is new to books, choose just two or three books; children who love story time and want a different book each night should get five to ten. When it is time for a bedtime story, let your child choose from the library books. You can also let your child choose from books in your home library, if you have one.
    • Alternately, if your child needs a bit of help with choosing, narrow it down to two or three books and then let your child choose.
  2. Expect to read the same story over and over. Children at this age learn from repetition, and you may literally have to read the same bedtime story dozens of times before your child tires of it. Your child is busy memorizing the pictures and words, and gets a thrill from knowing what is coming on the next page.
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    • Reading the same story multiple times can help your children gain fluency with words and increase their confidence and comprehension skills as they grow into independent readers.[4]
    • Kids learn from repetition. Reading the same book over and over can help to increase your child's vocabulary.[5]
    • Reading a familiar book is also a great way for a child to wind down at the end of the day. Their favorite books are comforting and soothing and can help ease them into a sleepy state.
  3. Choose something you enjoy, too. It can be a lot of fun to read books to children, but it can also be stressful or boring if you choose the wrong type of book. Some people love reading the tongue-twisting rhymes of Dr. Seuss books, for example, while other people find that type of reading difficult and unpleasant. If you enjoy a particular type of children's book or a particular author, be sure to incorporate those books into your reading ritual.
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    • If your child is old enough and has a good attention span, you might try reading 2 short picture books every night. Let your child choose one, and you choose the other.
    • You can also liven up story time by using finger puppets, cloth puppets, or varying the voices of the characters.
  4. Consider a popular book for this age group. Most toddlers and preschoolers love picture books that feature interesting but simple stories, lovable characters, and rhythm or rhyme in the words. Try to choose a book that is not too long, or your child (or you) might become bored.
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    • Most children's picture books are around thirty pages; for this age group, look for books that do not have dense paragraphs of text but rather just a few lines on every page.
    • Some good titles for two to five year old children include What! Cried Granny by Kate Lum, The Napping House by Audrey Wood, and The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton.[6]

[Edit]Reading to Older Children

  1. Try reading chapter books together. Before your child learns to read, you can read the book to your child. As your child gets older, you may find it fun to alternate paragraphs, or have your child read the book to you. Aim for one chapter per night.
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    • Many elementary schools require their students to read for a set amount of time each night. Incorporating this homework into your bedtime story is a great way to multitask and make the homework fun.
    • Ask your child about what they have read to increase their comprehension skills. You can help them recall and repeat the story if necessary.[7]
  2. Don't worry about who chooses the book. Sometimes your child may want to choose, and that's great. If your child doesn't have a strong opinion about what to read, you can introduce them to your own childhood favorites, or consult a list of popular children's books to find a new favorite for you both to enjoy.
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    • Some classic stories for elementary-aged children include the Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner, The BFG by Roald Dahl, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
    • Older children ages twelve and up might enjoy books like the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling or even the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  3. Don't forget their old favorites. Even when your child is old enough for longer chapter books, they might still enjoy a fun picture book every now and then. Follow your child's lead.
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    • Remember that it is more important for you to spend this time together reading something they enjoy than it is to worry about the level or type of book that you're reading.
  4. Read together as long as they are interested. You don't have to set a time limit on bedtime stories. It is totally normal for big kids to enjoy bedtime stories. If you have several kids, the oldest may still enjoy participating in bedtime stories together with the younger children.
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    • At some point, your child may decide they would rather read on their own. That's ok too! You’ve had many wonderful years of bedtime stories.

[Edit]Practicing Good Reading Strategies

  1. Choose a cozy place to read. You might like to sit in a rocking chair or a cozy loveseat for your bedtimes stories. You can also cuddle in your bed or your child's to help induce sleepiness.
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    • Let young children sit on your lap, and cuddle with a blanket while you read. Older children can snuggle next to you with your arm around their shoulders. If your child doesn't prefer to cuddle, that's ok too. Being together is what matters.
  2. Focus on the child's interests. While there are certain stories that are traditionally read at bedtime (like Goodnight Moon), you can read almost any type of story as a bedtime story. Most children express interest in certain types of books, and their interest can change over time. It's perfectly ok to choose a "bedtime story" that is not a typical story.
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    • For instance, many children love to look at seek-and-find picture books, or may find looking at an almanac of dog breeds interesting. The important thing is to spend the time with your child and a book in a low-pressure, reassuring environment.
  3. Read with expression. Children of all ages love to listen to expressive tones of voice during story time. When you read a bedtime story with expression, your child will pick up on your enthusiasm and listen intently to the story. [8]
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    • Try giving every character a distinct voice, and don't be afraid to be silly.
    • Build anticipation for what will come next in the story by adding strategic pauses or exclamations to the words on the page. For instance, instead of saying, "Outside the window, she saw a big brown bear," you might say, "Outside the window she saw a big… brown…. BEAR!"
  4. Encourage your child with early literacy strategies. Even if your child can't yet read, there are a few things you can do to help them acquire the skills needed to begin reading. For instance, recalling the story line or series of events using sequencing words helps. Introduce the words “First,” “Next,” “Then,” and “Finally,” to help your child narrate back a storyline to you.[9] You can also try:
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    • Pointing at words as you say them. This helps to teach the child that words on the page correlate to spoken words.
    • Anticipating what will happen next. Ask your child to predict what will happen on the next page.[10] This encourages them to use context clues and decipher the story arc.
    • Read a few words, then ask an early reader to read a word. You can point to sight words they've learned recently, or ask them to sound out a word they don't yet know.
  5. Ask your child questions. You don't have to just read a story straight through; you can stop at any point to discuss what you've read, ask your child questions, or let your child look at the pictures in detail.[11] A bedtime story should be enjoyable and relaxed.
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  6. Show enthusiasm for reading. At the end of a long day, it can be hard to muster excitement for another round of Goodnight Moon when all you want to do is put your children to bed and enjoy some quiet time to yourself. But your children will pick up on your enthusiasm or lack thereof.
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    • Remember that this time with your children is something they look forward to all day. Try to be present in the moment and enjoy it.
  7. Keep the book's complexity one level ahead of your child's comprehension. Children learn a lot during bedtime stories. You can help grow their vocabularies by reading a book that is just a bit difficult, so that they are exposed to new words and slightly longer sentences. If your child is four years old, try books geared for five or six year old children. Generally, the age recommendations for picture books can be found on the back of the book's title page.
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    • If you come across a word that your child does not know, briefly define it as you read. For instance, as you are reading, you might say: "The princess memorized the secret code. Memorized means she learned it so that she could remember it later."
    • Don't read a book that is too difficult. If you see your child losing interest, you might want to choose a different book.


  • It's a good idea to preview the book before reading it to your child, especially if the cover art makes you think it could be scary or upsetting.

[Edit]Related wikiHows


  10. [v161830_b01]. 31 August 2021.
  11. [v161830_b01]. 31 August 2021.
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