Catherine Rayner's favourite bedtime stories

Draw the curtains and get cosy – award-winning illustrator and children’s author Catherine Rayner tells us about her favourite sleepy reads for kids at bedtime.

All parents know how difficult it can be to coax children into dreamland. Catherine Rayner is an award-winning illustrator and writer of children's picture books, and here she lists her personal favourites, with a little help from her 5-year-old son.

Discover more bedtime stories for kids here.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to always be surrounded by books, and I began writing and illustrating little stories for myself from a very young age. They were always about animals, mainly my own pets. I grew up daydreaming about having a job where I got to write and illustrate books for a living but, like most daydreams, I didn’t think it would actually happen.

Combining art and words to make a book that children will want to read again and again is such a privilege, and I hope I get to keep doing it for as long as possible. Children’s books are special because they are the perfect introduction to the wonderful world of literature and art. A good book can foster a love of reading which is not only a positive educational tool, but also a tool for life. Escaping into a book is a gift for our mental wellbeing, especially in this modern digital age.

Reading to little ones at bedtime (or at any time) is a perfect opportunity for both adults and children to take a quiet moment outside the stress of busy lives. As well as improving language and communication skills, it is so important to carve out a space to just be together, without rushing – it’s a perfect bonding activity that you can do anywhere. It also helps to relax children before sleep and take the pressure off the bed-and-bath-time rush.

Jack and the Flumflum Tree

by Julia Donaldson

This is a brilliant rhyming text that you can get into a lovely rhythm with – to almost make a lullaby. I enjoy sharing it with my 5-year-old. It’s the perfect length, and fascinating detailed illustrations will also hold a child’s attention.

Monkey and Me

by Emily Gravett

This is great as a bedtime and daytime story. At night I read it very quietly and ask my son to tell me what is going to happen on the next page. Gentle interaction quietens children’s minds. I also love the length of this book. It’s a quick one to read through but it also encourages children to use their own imagination, with silhouettes and guessing. It’s been a favourite with both my children.

Goodnight Moon

Book cover for Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon is a classic that has been helping children to nod off for years. Its charm hasn’t dated and both my boys love it. It has a calm gentle text and simple but engaging illustrations. Try it at bed time, it’s still a best seller for a very good reason!

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

by Mac Barnett

Book cover for Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

My 5-year-old loves this book: it features exploration, beautiful dreamy illustrations and humour. A simple story that you'll enjoy as much at your child. Physically, this book is also a particularly lovely item so makes a perfect gift.

The Tiger who Came to Tea

by Judith Kerr

Book cover for The Tiger who Came to Tea

This is a classic and one that I remember with great affection from my childhood. The tiger is timeless, and every child should own a copy. It’s lovely to share as most parents read it when they were young, and it sparks some good conversations about your own favourite childhood books.


by Roger Duvoisin

Book cover for Petunia

The illustrations in the book make me so happy! It's an engaging farmyard tale with a simple but great moral. Again, it's a classic, but one not so many people know about. I won’t spoil the ending but our whole family loves reading this story and it is frequently read at bedtime.