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Children's bedtime stories

This Sleeptember we are celebrating everything to do with getting a great night’s sleep, including bedtime stories. After all, these charming tales can help our little ones to achieve the 10+ hour’s sleep that they need per night to grow up big and strong.

Enchanting, magical, unforgettable – these bedtime stories have become synonymous with a host of whimsical adjectives. The wonderful words of authors such as Roald Dahl and A. A. Milne are so impactful (and surprisingly mature), in fact, that they now appear out of context. From wedding speeches to websites like Pinterest, certain quotes now reach so many people that they don’t actually realise they stem straight from children’s bedtime stories! Here are ten of our favourites:

1. Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”

What would this roundup be without at least one quote from the nation’s favourite children’s writer, Roald Dahl? This snippet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a regular fixture on the ‘Inspirational Quotes’ boards populating Pinterest.

2. J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”

Far from just an escape for children all over the world, the Harry Potter books are full of pieces of universal, inspirational wisdom like the one above. This kernel of wisdom comes from none other than Albus Dumbledore, a bedtime hero if ever we read one.

3. Roald Dahl – The Witches

“It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”

Here we have another appearance from Roald Dahl, this time to teach us about the importance of love. Who’d have thought that a book about scary witches could teach us so much about life (apart from those who have read about the witches’ unmasking!)?

4. Tove Jansson – Moominpappa at Sea

Moominmamma: “One makes a trip by day, but by night one sets out on a journey.”

This endearing quote from Tove Jansson’s character Moominmamma is another Pinterest-worthy extract, often spotted dotted around travel-themed boards with no reference to the original text.

5. Dr Seuss – The Cat in the Hat

“Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Far from just catchy rhymes and memorable characters, Dr Seuss’s books are bursting with heartfelt sentiments that are just as relevant to adults as they are to children.

6. Roald Dahl – The BFG

“Two rights don’t equal a left.”

Roald Dahl strikes again with this short but sweet quote from The BFG. It’s much more fun than the usual “two wrongs don’t make a right,” so it’s no wonder that it has caught on as a day to day saying.

7. Antoine de Saint Exupery – The Little Prince

“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike… But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat.”

It isn’t hard to see why The Little Prince is such a popular choice for wedding readings. This quote is enough to bring a lump to your throat, and the rest of the book is no exception.

8. A. A. Milne – Winnie the Pooh

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books have become prime fodder for wedding readings, but are actually one of the most understatedly enchanting sources of bedtime stories.

9. Margery Williams – The Velveteen Rabbit

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Another popular wedding choice, this quote from The Velveteen Rabbit has been adopted by many a couple wishing to express the purity and depth of their love.

10. Roald Dahl – The Twits

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."

Probably the most pinned children’s book quote of all, this snippet from The Twits is known more widely as an inspirational mantra than part of a treasured bedtime story. Not that it makes it any less lovely, of course.

Powerful, poignant and resonant, it’s no surprise that this group of quotes has endured far beyond teaching us valuable life lessons as youngsters. They have become mantras for many adults, illustrating just how important the bedtime stories we are read as children can be.

Photo by Anastasia Alen CC BY

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