We are uncompromising about storytime in my house. As certain as there is peanut butter on my ceiling and my dog providing pony rides between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., there are 30 minutes around 8 every night dedicated to discovering a new library book or 3, or revisiting (for the thousandth time) a well-loved favorite. While some books are tossed aside after a few readings—sometimes the water cycle picture book is simply too dry, or the one with the conspiratorial farm animals too inauthentic—the books that we love are the ones that are the most fun to read aloud. Memorable characters and quirky prose dominate these tales, and since I can rarely resist the opportunity to try a new voice, storytime can easily turn into showtime.
1. The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt
Pull this top-shelf bedtime story out, and I guarantee you an audience. The only thing I can’t guarantee is that you’ll stop laughing long enough to give a fresh voice to each disgruntled crayon. From the creator of Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me, this one’s destined to become a read-aloud classic.
2. Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam Rubin
If you have children, it’s possible you’ve never found yourself with enough idle time to contemplate dragon eating habits, but they really, really like tacos. Honestly, who doesn’t? This is a hilarious story to digest and an encouraging manifesto for little ones who eat cautiously.
3. 10 Minutes till Bedtime, by Peggy Rathmann
Extemporize away with this lively picture book chronicling those magical moments immediately preceding bedtime. The beauty is that you never have to tell the same story twice!
4. Little Hoot, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Owly to bed, owly to rise is the unsung motto of Little Hoot, the wistful young owl who longs to break with family tradition and turn in at a reasonable hour. It’s your time to shine with your unique interpretation of what exasperated owl parents might sound like.
5. Skippyjon Jones: Class Action, by Judy Schachner
There isn’t a Skippyjon Jones book around that I don’t adore reading aloud, and Siamese cat Skippyjon’s elaborate schooltime fantasy is no exception. It’s another raucous day at Barker Academy for Skippyjon’s chi-wa-la alter ego, Skippito Friskito, and his canine comrades, and their story is yours to tell!
6. Mind your Manners, B.B. Wolf, by Judy Sierra
B.B. Wolf is enjoying a quiet retirement when an invitation arrives at the Villain Villa Senior Citizens Center—to the annual storybook tea at the library! It’s a chance for him to disprove his Big Bad image, so the wolf must mind his manners. But first he has to learn some.
7. The Pain and the Great One, by Judy Blume
It’s a classic story of sibling rivalry, told from each side’s perspective. Polish your petulant tone, and you’ll soon be ready for primetime with this one!
8. Carmine: A Little More Red, by Melissa Sweet
Part Little Red Riding Hood retelling, part alphabet book, this New York Times Best Illustrated story has it all: Wolves! Recipes! Loads of vocabulary words! In fact, you’d better start reading it right now…
9. Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson
In case you haven’t read this one, forgive my spoiler: bear eventually WAKES UP! Because the cozy party that’s grown in his den during his well-earned hibernation has gotten rowdy! Things come to a head when mouse seasons the stew, making bear sneeze, and the animals cower in fright. Will they all become friends? Or will they be kicked out into the frigid blizzard? As my daughter can attest, it’s a wonderful story to tell, over and over and over again.
10. Steam Train, Dream Train, by Sherri Duskey Rinker
An instant read-aloud masterpiece, Steam Train, Dream Train comes from the team that brought us Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site. More than just a bedtime story, this tale’s poetic, dreamy prose lulls my little ones to sleep peacefully, rendering this a bestime story in my house.
11. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, by Brian Floca
If, like me, you find it difficult to believe that the story of Apollo 11 could be told in such a way that a preschooler could hang on every word and picture, then this little gem exists to prove you wrong. On every page, you and your little one will learn something new about the first moon landing, and you’ll be captivated by the powerful language and masterful illustrations.
12. Locomotive, by Brian Floca
Floca, the only author to show up twice on this list, proves to be capable of another miracle with this book: making the story of the transcontinental railroad accessible to 4– to 104–year–olds who may have no previous exposure to railroad history. Indeed, Floca has made history with this one, and it’s a book you’ll want to read aloud every night.
What’s your favorite story to read aloud?