Bedtime Stories – The Final Chapter?

[Image - Pavan Trikatum]
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Storytelling, an age-old bedtime ritual for most children, is being increasingly over-looked as busy lifestyles take their toll.

Whether it’s heroic fables of far-away lands, eccentric illustrations of the wise and whacky, or cautionary tales from deep within the dark woods, children’s literature has fed the imagination of our kids for centuries. So, why is it that becoming immersed in a book is something modern children are doing less and less often, and what can parents do to stop society losing one of the most sacred artefacts of childhood, the story?

“Reading is crucial for child development and a lack of reading can impair language growth, emergent literacy and social skill development.” Tanya Bryon – Child Psychologist

Worrying new research by Alton Towers Resort has revealed that parents are failing to find the time to read to their children, with time-pressed mums feeling the burden most. 65% of parents wish they had more time to read to their kids, and 71% of parents claim reading to their children is one of the most stressful things they do.

It’s not as though parents don’t care, or don’t understand the importance of reading (they were kids once too!) Most parents (65%) wish that they had more time to read to children – but the strain of work-demands and household duties doesn’t leave much free time. The research also revealed that while three quarters of parents believe that reading to their children every night is incredibly important, only 1/5th of them actually find the time do it.

To help parents get into the groove, child psychologist Professor Tanya Byron has shared some top tips for storytelling:

Short on time? Tell a short poem or pick up a book that you’re already familiar with!

Take some of the pressure off! If you struggle to make story-time engaging for your kids, choose books with built-in sound effects/music and interactive visuals.

– TV. If your child has a TV in their room, avoid having it on when they go to bed and read a story to them instead.

– The team. If you feel embarrassed, get a partner or family member involved and tell the story together – sharing the parts makes a better story too.

– Rituals. Make story time part of the bedtime ritual, it should be something for children to look forward to, setting the scene for them to fall asleep seamlessly.

– Listen. Story time doesn’t have to be fictional, make story time a two-way dialogue and ask your child to tell the story of their day.

– Read anytime. If it’s inconvenient to read a story to your child at bedtime, find a time that works as part of your routine – whether it’s something you do before dinner or at the weekend.

– Prepare. If you don’t feel confident, why not prepare beforehand, by reading the book to yourself and practicing the rhythm of the words.

– Rules. If your child uses story time as a delaying tactic to avoid going to sleep, limit them to one book per night – but promise to build on the tales as their sleep routine gets easier.

If you need a little more inspiration, here are the top 10 story-books for children:

1. The Gruffalo (27%)

2. Little Red Riding Hood (25%)

3. Goldilocks and the Three Bears (23%)

4. Three Little Pigs (13%)

5. Hansel and Gretel (12%)

6. The Boy in the Dress (12%)

7. The Hungry Caterpillar (11%)

8. Gangsta Granny (8%)

9. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (8%)

10. The Boy Who Cried Wolf (8%)