I have been reading bedtime stories to my son for as long as I can remember being his parent. In a few weeks he’ll turn 6-and-a-half, and I have no plans to stop reading to him. We have evolved from reading silly and repetitive board books to reading imaginative and thoughtful chapter books. The nightly bedtime reading is one of my favorite parts of our entire day.
Recently Chelsea Clinton shared a photo of her with daughter Charlotte on the eve of Charlotte’s first birthday. The pair were tucked into a comfy chair and she captioned the photo, “Last book for Charlotte before bedtime on her first birthday!” When we think of bedtime stories this is, perhaps, the image we are used to. Infants, young children, being read to.
Can you imagine a 10-year-old being read a bedtime story? What about a 13-year-old? Or a 16-year-old? At some point the reading stops.
But I don’t ever want it to stop.
Scholastic UK did a survey on reading at home and found that 21% of parents (one in five) stopped reading to their children before age 9. The reason the parents stopped was because the children were able to read on their own. Scholastic then asked children aged 6 to 8 if they were ready for their parents to stop reading to them. Thirty-seven percent of the children said no.
I know I am a sappy sap, but reading that statistic broke my heart.
The children surveyed shared some of the reasons why they love being read to. These were the reasons that grabbed me:
- 68% said it was special time with their parent
- 56% said being read to before bed was relaxing
- 37% said they got to talk about the books
I love reading to my son for those exact reasons.
My son and I both have chaotic schedules and some days feel LOUD and overwhelming. When it’s time to read, everything slows down. There is stillness and peace. My son climbs up to the top bunk, I tuck him in, and then I stretch out on the bottom bunk and begin.
I always do a “Remember what happened yesterday?” prologue before I start actually reading new pages. We review what events happened to our leading character. Then I give my son one more chance to get a sip of water or dance any extra sillies out.
I usually get through a page or two before he interrupts me with a question. He will want to know what a word means or why would a character behave a certain way. A few pages later and I can tell my son has drifted off to sleep.
Frank Cottrell Boyce, award-winning children’s author, believes “the joy of a bedtime story is the key to developing a love of reading in children.” He worries if children aren’t read to at home, but only exposed to books at school, it will ruin the experience. “They’re being taught to read before anyone has shared with them the pleasure of reading — so what motivation have they got to learn?”
Author of the beloved children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen, also feels enthusiastic about parents continuing to read to their children. “My mum read to me from as early as I can remember. I have many of the books she read to me and I would plead with her to read some of them over and over again.” Rosen’s father read to the family on camping trips and continued to read to him through his teens and into his 40s!
The National Education Association is a huge champion of reading at home. Their studies indicate “students who do more reading at home are better readers and have higher math scores.” They also saw a trend in a decrease in reading for fun as children got older.
The end of the day can be one of the most stressful parts and maybe bedtime routines have been cut short to save time or sanity. If you have eased up on reading bedtime stories, consider asking your children how they feel about it. It is possible they miss it and miss that time with you.More On