Bookbug Detective: Making Bedtime Reading Fun

The Bookbug Detective is here to help you with any questions you have about books and reading for your little one. Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions so far. The Detective has selected a question to answer below. If you'd like some book recommendations or advice send the Bookbug Detective an email, or post your question in the comments below!

I’ve been trying to read my children (age 3 and 4) bedtime stories but I’m finding it really difficult as they always get distracted and won’t concentrate for the whole story. Instead of being a relaxing time, it’s actually quite stressful. Do you have any tips or good stories to read? Lucy

I’m sorry that you’ve been having trouble with bedtime reading, but you are not alone. It can be a very stressful time but it doesn’t need to be. And the benefits are huge – a story before bed can relax your children before sleep, boost their language and literacy development and enhance the parent–child bond. Here are some tips on how to hopefully make it a more enjoyable experience:

  1. Try not to pick a story that’s too exciting or scary (unless they love scary stories). Try a more relaxing, calming story instead.
  2. Pick books with rhyme and repetition. They’ll encourage your children to join in with the story.
  3. Let your children choose the books. If they feel involved in the choice, they’re more likely to engage with the story. You could limit the choice to a few books so that you get something you enjoy too!
  4. Remove distractions. Turn off the TV or other electrical appliances so that you can just focus on the story.
  5. Change the location. Bedtime stories don’t have to take place in bed – what about starting in the bath?
  6. Talk about the pictures. Most books have lots of things to explore. You could turn it into a bit of a game and hunt for various things.
  7. Get creative with the story. You could try making up your own story, or getting your children to help you. This can sound daunting but give it a go – it’s lots of fun!
  8. Keep at it! Even if it doesn’t go well for a few nights, don’t stop. It’ll soon become part of the routine that your children will come to expect and look forward to.
  9. Relax! Don’t worry if your children wriggle or aren’t paying attention. Act like it doesn’t matter – they’ll pick up on how relaxed you are and hopefully calm down.
  10. Remember to have fun. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Enjoyment is catching.

It obviously depends on the interests of your children, but here are some suggestions of stories that are great for bedtime (and any time of day):

  • Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers – fast becoming a modern classic, this is a lovely quiet story of friendship between a little boy and a penguin. A great one for snuggling in close.
  • I Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau and Serge Bloch – a bedtime story disguised as an anti-bedtime story, you and your children will be yawning all the way through this book. In fact I’m yawning now just thinking about it!
  • Peace at Last by Jill Murphy – Mr Bear can’t sleep! Mrs Bear’s snoring is keeping him awake so he goes into Baby Bear’s room but Baby Bear is pretending to be an aeroplane. What will Mr Bear do? A funny, bright and colourful book that children will love.
  • King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley and Helen Oxenbury – a magical, rhyming story starring King Jack, a band of faithful knights and a big green dragon.
  • Hugless Douglas by David Melling – Douglas the bear can’t find a hug anywhere. Cuddle in close while you follow Douglas on his search.

There are also lots of themed book lists on our website to help you discover your next bedtime story!

Do you have a question for the Bookbug Detective? Email it to

Catch up on the previous Bookbug Detective blogs for advice on everything from introducing story books to reading with your baby. 

Kirsty Sinclair

Kirsty Sinclair is the Early Years Operations Manager and the Bookbug Detective for Scottish Book Trust.