Teeth are brushed. Stories are told. Hugs and kisses are given and the lights are off. It's time to put up your feet, sip a cup a tea and read a good book.
No, not quite yet. A tiny voice calls, "I can't fall asleep." Since you have worn yourself out, you could use a little help with your young insomniac.
Here are my suggestions for several recordings that are guaranteed to guide your child into the world of sweet slumber.
BROWN BAG BEDTIME BOOKS, by Cat Sauer, narrated by Bill Welter, character voices by Wayne Osley, Phran Gauci and Russ Wheeler, Writer's Ink Studios, 2001, $10 for audiocassette, $16.95 book with CD, 75 minutes; ages 4-7.
Young listeners will be intrigued by the twists and turns that occur in the two action-packed stories on this recording, "Flip, Flop and Hoot" and "A Possum in the Roses." Both tales feature animals that are caring and resourceful. Betsy the Butterfly mobilizes the field animals to find her missing friend, a rabbit named Flip Flop. They help to guide blind Blossom Possum out of the rose patch he is stuck in and then find him a pair of glasses.
These long tales are structured like chapter books, with musical interludes strategically placed where the action is heightened and the focus is about to change. This organization provides parents a logical time to end the listening session with children looking forward to the next installment on subsequent evenings. As children drift off to sleep, I guarantee they will be thinking about what will happen next and when they do reach the end of each tale they will smile at the happy endings.
These sweet, multitextured stories are fun to listen to. Welter's professional "radio announcer" voice provides contrast to the various character voices (I especially enjoyed Gauci's portrayal of the excitable Betsy the Butterfly). Realistic sound effects complete this enjoyable tape.
Find "Brown Bag Bedtime Books" online at www.brownbagbooks.com or by calling (888) 229-9200.
TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR, written and illustrated by Iza Trapani, read by Valerie Stephens, sung by Iza Trapani and friend, Charlesbridge Publishing, 2004, $9.95 for paperback book with CD, 14 minutes; ages 3-7.
Trapani starts with a song ("Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star") that is a childhood favorite and sensitively turns it into a magical nighttime journey. The original verse is followed by a child wishing she could fly to visit the star. Her wish is granted and the star takes her on a tour of the nighttime sky. Their adventure winds down when the little girl gazes upon the earth and sees animals and children sleeping. The star safely returns the sleepy youngster to her bed and shines down on her.
Trapani expertly intertwines music, spoken word and illustrations to present a delightful, gentle piece that will help even the most fidgety child settle down after a busy day. The recording begins by Trapani sweetly singing the rhyming verse to musical accompaniment. The song is brought to life when she takes the part of the star and a child sings the young girl's lines.
The slightly whimsical, rich, colorful illustrations help the listener/reader become a part of the evening journey. The experience is complete with Stephen's expressive reading of the book. Her rich, calming voice, the instrumental background and musical interludes of the original song are sure to lull your child to sleep. Find "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in independent and major bookstores, online at www.charlesbridge.com/ msp/catalog/product/ detail.do?id=10702 or call (800) 225-3214.
SWEET DREAMS, by Jim Weiss, 1998, $10.95 for audiocassette, $14.95 for CD, one hour; ages 3-8.
This recording of six story visualizations with sleepy time music takes children to a forest cottage, a pond behind the waterfall, a toy shop, a desert retreat and a cove. Each location is described in great detail, so the listeners can easily be transported there. Weiss thoughtfully brings each child into the scene by asking them to pretend they are doing a task, such as when he asks them to pull down a book from the bookcases in the cottage and read it. Each scenario ends with the discovery of a safe, quiet place to fall asleep and a few minutes of soothing music.
It is impossible to fight off sleep while listening to Weiss' mellow, gentle voice. He expertly creates each vignette so that young listeners will feel the warmth and security that is required for a good night's sleep. I couldn't help but feel a sense of well-being when he described the warm sun shinning on "my" arm and the graceful family of deer with the deep brown eyes eating quietly in the tranquil forest. After listening to this sensitive recording, children will have many peaceful and colorful images to incorporate into their own sweet dreams.
Find "Sweet Dreams" online at www.greathall.com/onlinebro.html or by calling (800) 477-6234.
Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator. She lives in Skokie and has two boys, ages 13 and 16. Her Web site, www.simplystorytelling.com, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.
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