Eleven Best Children’s Books for kids in 2023
As an American mom of three ages 6-16, I’m amazed at how much our cultural values have changed just in the past decade. As parents, it’s important to stay abreast of what our kids are absorbing and making sure it’s in line with the values and behaviors you want your children to adopt.
While getting my hypnotherapy and coaching certification, I learned that bedtime story-time is an especially fertile time for children’s minds. This is an in-between state, when they are not fully awake and not fully asleep. In hypnosis, we call this a trance state. The suggestions planted at this time get embedded into the child’s subconscious mind.
If you are still reading the bedtime stories your parents read to you, or even ones you read to your older kids, your values may have changed. Certainly, many of our cultural values have changed. Today, we value inclusivity, emotional intelligence, accepting our uniquenesses rather than trying to fit in, kindness, building confidence and supporting our kids, financial abundance rather than scarcity, and compassion.
You may or may not agree with all the values in these books. Only you can decide what values you want to teach your child. What’s key is that parents consciously decide on the values and behaviors they want to teach their children, then use as many tools to do just that. Bedtimes stories are an easy way to have longterm, lasting influences in your child’s life. Here are some of our favorites. Keanu and I chose these together as our absolute favorite books for bedtime in 2023.
TIP FOR PARENTS: Creating a calming bedtime routine.
Creating a soothing, calming bedtime routine for your child, not only helps get them into a hypnotic state, so the lessons of the stories sink into the subconscious, but also helps children to establish life-long habits for good, healthy sleep. Turn off devices 1-2 hours before bed, avoid bright lights (I use dimmable salt lamps and amber light bulbs). You might include a bath or shower, brush and floss, a noisemaker or quiet room, coloring or drawing. Keanu and I color, do legos and then read three stories and say prayers of gratitude. Remove as much stimulus as possible. Use this time for planting seeds into your child’s subconscious (and yours too). The messages in their bedtimes stories are important as they literally get planted into the fertile soil of the mind.
I am Albert Einstein by Brad Melter, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
This is a great little book about, well, Albert Einstein. I love how this book takes one of our most brilliant scientists and shows how he was called dopey and different. It teaches kids that being different and going against what everyone else does, is not only acceptable, but takes courage to trust yourself and follow your heart. It encourages being curious, understanding science and knowledge of how the universe works. Keanu wants to be a scientist.
A Little Spot of Feelings by Diane Alber
I got this shortly after Keanu’s dad died. Keanu was four-years-old and didn’t have the vocabulary to know what he was feeling. I was in my 40s and couldn’t make out what I was feeling! This helped both of us identity our feelings. We would make faces of our feelings and act out the feelings as we read. He learned about body language and how faces convey what we someone is feeling. Keanu uses the chart in the book to identify his emotions. He would point to the face representing how he felt at that moment. It helped him to know there’s a name for that feeling, that feelings are normal, and how to identify them. Keanu also loves the plushies. One day, he gave me LOVE, just because he wanted me to know I was loved.
Waiting Is Not Easy by Mo Williams
This book is so fun! It teaches kids (and a good reminder for parents) that waiting is not easy. In our society of instant gratification, everything and anything gets delivered to our doors, within hours or days at the most. Kids are not learning to wait. They expect things instantly. Technology and affluence is making people in more of a hurry and more material-based. Waiting, patience, delayed gratification are necessary to live life with contentment and joy. I especially love that the gift is nature’s beauty.
Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Micael Rex
Keanu brought this home from his school’s library and it was so good that I ordered a copy for us to keep. He liked the robots, and that is why he chose it. So I was surprised at how good this book really is! It teaches kids (and parents) the differences between facts and opinions, and how it can be confusing to differentiate. Keanu was getting into arguments with his friends because Keanu loves video game characters called “Rainbow Friends.” He doesn’t play the game, but is pretty much obsessed with the characters and draws them and makes sculptures of them. So, he loves them. One of his friends kept telling him that “Rainbow Friends are stupid,” which made Keanu REALLY mad. We had the whole “stupid” conversation, again, bringing that back from the Lorax and how language has changed over the decades. He felt how it feels to be on the receiving end of that word. This book opened up a discussion for us to talk about opinions in a way I had not thought of, to teach him how all people have different likes and dislikes. You don’t argue with someone over their opinion or your opinion. You can argue facts, but opinions are supposed to be different. That’s what’s so cool about them! We practiced responses to the boy like, “Oh ya, that’s your opinion. And I get to have mine.”
It’s an interactive book, so the child practices learning the differences. Everyone has opinions and they are all different and we can still get along with someone who has a different opinion than the ones we hold.
We LOVE Dr. Seuss! The Lorax is Keanu’s favorite Dr. Seuss book. We have probably read it several hundred times. It teaches children to appreciate and protect our planet. Every time I read it, we are more inspired to take action to stop wasteful consumerism and help protect the planet. I do have a small gripe with The Lorax though. One day, Keanu got mad and yelled, “That’s stupid,”
“We don’t say stupid.” I said.
“Why not?” he asked.
(I teach him to question everything and always ask why and why not. It’s annoying but it’s worth it if it keeps him curious and never assuming he has all the information).
“It’s not a nice word,” I said.
“But the Onceler says it.
“You know, the Onceler… In the LORAX,” he said.
The next time we read The Lorax, sure enough, he does. I grabbed a thin sharpie and changed “Shut up if you please” to “Be quiet if you please” and “stupid” to “silly.” “I don’t think Dr. Seuss will mind,” I said. He’d want us to use words that our teachers would want us to use.
What do Do with An Idea, by Kobe Yamada & Illustrated by Mae Besom
We seem to pull this book out of the bookshelf, on just the nights I need to hear its message. It’s about a boy with an idea. He’s not sure he even wants it. What is it? It’s beautifully written and illustrated, about growing an idea, protecting it, paying attention to it, and watching the magic of it unfold. I feel every word in this book. Whether developing intuition and mediumship skills, working on my next book, or creating a new course. This is one, I read for both of us. It gets me out of my head and gives me a boost of confidence, courage and excitement. Keanu seems to naturally have this creativity and confidence. I love that this book reinforces that in him.
The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul
This was another book Keanu checked out from his school library and it was so good that I bought it for our home library. It’s written from a child’s perspective. Something is wrong, but she doesn’t know what. The adults seem sad and scared and distracted. They aren’t paying attention to her anymore because they are consumed with their own feelings, fears, watching TV, on the phone. It lets kids know they aren’t alone and that many kids feel scared when their grownups are scared. It empowers them to make a small difference. We read this a lot in the year Keanu’s dad died. It was also the pandemic and we are still in the aftermath of COVID. Anxiety and depression, anger and fear are in most homes.
Written by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, Illustrated by Maurie Manning
This book teaches kids about our natural energy reserves. Everyone has days that things just don’t go well. The wise grandpa in this book, teaches his grandson about his energetic bucket, what empties it, and what fills it. This is one of our absolute favorites!
I bought this when Keanu was first born and it’s been a favorite ever since. It’s a fathers story to his son, about how perfect, amazing and wholesome their relationship is. It says, thank you, for being my child. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, for any boy from his dad.
This made the list for a few reasons.
Keanu loves “Wreck the Halls,” with Wreck it Ralph and Vanelope. I love that each story is about a Christmas tradition. The stories are about Christmas traditions around giving, family, being together, community, coming together and not about presents! It’s about letting people know you appreciate them and spending time together. It highlights the spirit of Christmas, not materialism or consumerism.
by Emily Winfield Martin
This made my favorites list, but did not for Keanu. So I’m giving it an honorable mention because it is a beautiful book! The illustrations are sweet, colorful and the simple with the beautiful message that you can be and do anything you want. It invites a child to dream, to be curious and to embrace her uniqueness.
Note to reader, as an Amazon Associate, I do receive a small commission for anything you purchase through the direct links on this post. You do not pay anything extra. Your purchase helps me to be able to continue to write content that I am passionate about like family, spirituality, being a good human, mental health & physical health, and yoga. I hope these articles help make your life smoother and easier, more meaningful and joyful. With love & light. Melisa