Stories for reluctant sleepers

If you wish to persuade a junior in your life that they really should be going to bed instead of continuing to play/ searching for snacks/ asking why the sky is blue, children’s books give you two main options. Some are cuddly-cosy and make the idea of snuggling up and settling down seem eminently desirable. In some of these, the repetition actually seems enough to bore them into dropping off (Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?, I’m looking at you). Others put a fellow reluctant-sleeper front and centre, and proceed to show them the error of their ways. An alternative view is provided by the wonderful Jill Murphy in Peace at Last, in which sleep is a seemingly unobtainable goal for Daddy Bear. I haven’t discovered one yet which praises the joys of the midday nap, rather than the big bedtime sleep – maybe that’s an even harder sell! Here are some great books which, even if they do not totally convince your youngsters of the benefits of bedtime, will at least provide you and them with an entertaining read.

Bedtime is fun…honestly

 Many children will recognise the various delaying tactics employed by Alfie in Goodnight, Alfie Atkins by Gunilla Bergström and the ending is similar to Peace at Last. Bonus points for showing a Dad who patiently copes with the endless stream of requests (it’s originally written in Swedish). A similar war of attrition is fought in Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban (Frances is a badger). This is a book which divides opinion with some loving the way a stubborn child is portrayed (albeit in badger form) and others taking issue with the fact that her parents threaten a spanking to get her to go to sleep towards the end (also contains scenes of pipe smoking!). Personally I can’t get that worked up about it. After all, it is a story about talking badgers. Wearing clothes. It is not meant to be a ‘how-to’ manual, and books from previous times can give useful entry points into discussions. However, if mention of a spank throws you into a tizzy, you might prefer Betty Goes Bananas in her Pyjamas by Steve Antony or Mariella, Queen of the Skies by Eoin Colfer . One of the most famous not-ready-to-go-to-sleep-yet books is Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram. This straddles the two genres by providing entertaining antics for Baby and Daddy Hare, and then a settling down part at the end where the rhythm and pacing of the words almost mimics Little Nutbrown Hare running out of steam.

Are you feeling sleepy yet?

For those in favour of the lulling them by repetition approach, there is Sleep Well Little Bear by Quint Buchholz (originally written in German), the classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise, illustrated by Clement Hurd, a book so beloved it has its own companion volume, and Llama, Llama, Red Pyjama by Anna Dewdney which is delightful, but really needs reading with an American accent in order to make sense of the rhymes. And then there is the Grandaddy of them all Can’t You Sleep Little Bear? by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth which I always foisted onto a TA when I had to read it in class as the repetition drove me to distraction but which, I have to say, the children really did love. If you can get to the end without dozing off yourself, well done! (I love Martin Waddell. Personally, I’d rather read Owl Babies and Farmer Duck a dozen times to help them drop off).

What have I missed? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Happy snoozing or happy book sharing, whichever stories you choose.

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