A few of my favorite books, which we turn to again and again
Next to bedtime prayers, bedtime reading is the one thing our kids make sure we never skip. With a bookshelf so packed with children’s books it’s nearly ready to buckle, we’ve got plenty of choices. There are some we’d rather not read, some we have memorized from constant repetition, and believe it or not, some that we’d gladly read over and over again.
I’m a sucker for Dr. Seuss, my wife loves George and Martha, and Frog and Toad, and my kids are pretty much happy as long as we just keep reading.
If I ever get the chance to select the books pulled off the shelf as we all sit around in our pajamas, here are the ones I grab:
1. St. Francis and the Wolf by Richard Egielski
For little kids: a simple retelling of a familiar legend
This book is simply fun. The illustrations are fantastic, and I always feel good sharing with my little guys a story about one of the Church’s most beloved and revered saints. The book tells the story of a city terrorized by a wolf. The leaders of the city try all kinds of different methods to put an end to the wolf problem, using brute force to try to ensure protection. After all of their efforts fail, they finally allow the friar Francis to go out and meet the wolf in his own style. Francis befriends the wolf, and the wolf eventually becomes a peaceful and beloved resident of the city.
My oldest kid loved this story so much that when he was filling out a faith formation worksheet, he answered “Favorite Bible story?” by grabbing his pencil and writing (in all caps): ST. FRANCIS AND THE WOLF.
2. Chime Travelers by Lisa Hendey
Chapter book with pictures, 7 – 10 years
The Chime Travelers series is a fantastic gift from Lisa Hendey to our children. One part Magic Treehouse and 10 parts typical Catholic family life, Chime Travelers is exactly the book series you’ve been looking for. I can’t tell you how nice it is to read a book about a family that goes to Mass, is friends with the priest, and talks openly and normally about Adoration and Confession. In a world where being Catholic seems to be getting increasingly less normal, reading a book with your kids where the family is just like your own is a great pleasure.
3. Loving Baby Louie by Colleen and David Currie
Picture book, with heavy theme
When you have experienced the death of a child, you often find yourself searching for anything that puts words to the depth of your misery and grief. Being able to find that something, and have it also be good for communicating the reality of what you’re going through to your children, is a double blessing.
I have not figured out how to make it through Loving Baby Louie without breaking down in tears just yet, but the joy I feel when one of my little ones asks for this book to be read is indescribable. The book shows the both/and of suffering as a Catholic family: we are both devastated and hopeful, doubting and accepting, so deeply sad and yet so counterintuitively joyful.
This book has played a big role in our grieving process, and for that I will be forever grateful.
4. Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
Picture book, Preschool and up
There are many Dr. Seuss titles I could have added to this list (stepping away from the overtly religious tales for a bit) but I have to admit that Fox in Socks is my absolute favorite. It’s fun, tricky to read, and never fails to get everyone laughing.
At our house, we play a game where if I make five or more mistakes when reading, we get/have to read it all over again. It’s pretty hilarious to have my kids actively cheering for me to mess up on one of the book’s many unbelievable and unforgettable tongue twisters.
Much like Mr. Knox, I frequently get all those ticks and clocks, sir, mixed up with the chicks and tocks, sir.
And my kids absolutely love it.
5. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Picture book, 1 – 8 years
No list of my favorite bedtime books could be complete without a selection from Shel Silverstein.
Believe it or not, I grew up without Shel’s witty poetry, and it was my wife who first introduced me to the likes of Where the Sidewalk Ends and such classics as Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out.
Despite such a huge catalog of poetry perfection, any Shel Silverstein fan would have to list The Giving Tree as the go-to bedtime story.
The touching tale of a the tree who loved a boy and gave absolutely everything just to make the boy happy is enough to make any parent tear up.
Sitting around reading bedtime books with my children is one of my favorite things about being a parent. There’s something so profound and powerful about sharing a good book as a family.
Like the tree at the end of Shel Silverstein’s masterpiece, it makes me happy.
What are some of your favorite books to share with your kids?