World Book Day has been lurking in the back of my mind for a wee while, thanks mostly to nursery newsletters. But every year I forget that February is a short month, so events in early March (including husband’s birthday, oops!) come around all too suddenly.

Last year I had a new baby and thus was perfectly justified in putting my oldest in a red hat, giving him a stick and sending him to nursery as a combo of Stick Man and Where’s Wally (no worries – he was more than happy!). But I’m on it this year: my 3.5yo is going to be the smartest Smartest Giant in Town.

However, World Book Day was designed to celebrate reading, not to panic parents about the crapness of their kid’s last minute dressing up options. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t have the time, skills, energy or money to make or buy a costume, but take five minutes to read a bedtime story and you are helping establish their love of life and learning.

So below I’m sharing some of our current favourite reads. Please do comment with your own recommendations as I’m always on the lookout for new stories and characters.

My older son (3.5) is digging:

The Smartest Giant in Town: No list of children’s books is complete without a Julia Donaldson entry and, as my eldest son wants to be the giant this year – ‘because he’s kind’ – this title tops the list. Mentions must go to (of course) The Gruffalo (for its brand ubiquity and for infiltrating so many aspects of our lives, from card games to woodland walks that turn Gruffalo hunts) and Tiddler (for being the actual best).

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In My Heart: A Book of Feelings: When I came across this hardback in an independent shop in Bristol I was drawn by the colourful cutouts. In My Heart explores a whole range of emotions and helps little people identify and articulate how they feel. It made a brilliant Christmas present and is still such a regular bedtime choice that I intend to buy its partner title, All My Treasures: A Book of Joy.

The Cat in the Hat: My son is having speech therapy sessions as he has trouble with certain sounds. His therapist recommended rhyming stories as a great way of practising consonants – and what could be a more obvious choice than The Cat in the Hat? ‘Dr Suess makes reading fun!’ exclaims the cover slogan – and indeed, he does.

Usborne Peep Inside Space: Proving that lift-the-flap books are not just for babies, this is simply a brilliant book. It begins by asking children to look into the sky and then takes them on a journey around the planets via the international space station. Detailed illustrations bring atmosphere and a sense of adventure.

Mrs Wobble the Waitress: One in a series of classic children’s stories by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, this touching story might not rhyme but it is great for practising consonants. One I remember from my own childhood and am loving again the second time around.

And with my younger son (15 months), we’re enjoying reading:

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Miffy: The adventures of this iconic little bunny have been charming readers since 1955, when Dick Bruna made his first line drawings on holiday. We have a set of regular Miffy books and a couple of lift-the-flap books which my little one just loves. With the death of Bruna just this month I’m sure Miffy’s popularity will surge and be passed to a whole new generation.

Who Lives on the Farm? and Who Lives in the Jungle? Two of four brightly coloured board books in the ‘Who Lives in…’ series and I’ll definitely be buying the others. Lifting the flaps and pulling the tabs provide interactive fun while teaching little ones new animal words.

My Friends: Brought to life by Japanese author-illustrator Taro Gomi, a little girl moves through the landscape praising her friends and the skills she’s learned from them. This sweet book with its slightly different perspective is aimed specifically at 1-3 year olds.

A quick rummage in our bookcase also threw up beloved but temporarily forgotten board books Mog, Dear Zoo and Rabbit’s Nap (yet another nod to Julia) – and just like that, our bedtime reading is sorted for the rest of the week. What titles are enthralling your little ones? And what characters are you introducing them to that you loved, all those years ago?