If you ask an adult what childhood memory they treasure the most, many will tell you it’s the memory of bedtime stories as a child. Back then, bedtime stories were a pleasant indulgence – a bit of together time at the end of a busy day. But now, there’s compelling evidence that bedtime stories are hugely beneficial to your children on many levels. But how to do bedtime stories like a pro? Read on for our advice on the when, why, what and how of bedtime stories.
1. When Should I Start Reading Bedtime Stories To My Child?
Truthfully, it’s never too early to start reading to your child. In fact, the sooner the better. It’s thought that reading to your child from an early age can help them to develop sound recognition, which in turn helps to boost language skills and broaden your child’s vocabulary. And the earlier you start doing it, the more likely it is your child will think of reading as a positive and enjoyable experience. Plus, reading bedtime stories is a great way to bond with your baby.
If you’re reading to a newborn or a baby in a cot (i.e. a baby that won’t grab and tear), you can pretty much read anything you think is appropriate, even bits of your favourite books from childhood. Just hearing you read bedtime stories is a positive thing.
2. When Is The Best Time To Read Bedtime Stories?
We’ve talked before about the importance of timing when it comes to reading bedtime stories, but the best guide of all is your own child. If they’re exhausted after bath-time and can barely keep their eyes open once they’re in pyjamas, it’s not wise to keep them awake any longer with a bedtime story.
Remember: one of the key benefits of a bedtime story is to ease your child into a relaxed and happy state before drifting off to sleep. You need to share bedtime stories when your child is receptive enough to enjoy them. That could be before bath-time, before pyjamas, after pyjamas, in your special ‘story chair’ or tucked up in bed – only you can truly judge it. And, if you’re not sure, the best advice is to keep trying until you find a time that works for everyone. The main thing is that you commit to doing that.
3. How Many Bedtime Stories Should I Read?
This largely depends on the age of your children – and experts often look at the length of time you read, rather than the number of books. In the UK, the reading charity Booktrust recommends that you aim for 10 minutes of reading every day. We say, aim for 10 minutes when your children are very little and gradually increase the time as they get older, aiming for 20 to 30 minutes.
This could equate to one picture book or short story initially, increasing to two or three when they’re a bit older, or a chapter of a book for older children. If you’re really having fun, slot in extra reading sessions earlier in the day or at the weekend. You don’t have to make bedtime stories a mammoth reading session, so keep it short and sweet if you need to.
Another great tip – if you both tired and fancy a story time yourself – why not listen to audio stories together? It’s also a bonding experience if the story is new to you both and you can use apps to pick your favourite one and play it while you cuddle together!
4. How Do I Read Bedtime Stories?
With enthusiasm, with pleasure and, most importantly, with time and attention. The key to how to do bedtime stories is to be yourself, even if that means stumbling and tripping over words and avoiding silly voices. You’re not an actor; you’re a parent but you can have a lot of fun together!
Our top tips to finding fab stories are:
- Your local library for classic picture books
- Storytime magazine for a curated selection of tales from all around the world
- Readmio app for a reading experience with sound effects
- Trips to your local bookshop will help you discover new books and magazines together and look forward to sharing them too!
5. What Are The Best Bedtime Stories?
In an ideal world, the best bedtime stories are the ones you both enjoy, but most importantly the child needs to be engaged so their choice will top trump yours! The best advice here is to try to see a story from your child’s point of view. Try to understand what it is about the story they love so much.
We have found that the best bedtime stories for children tend to have the following themes:
- They’re funny or downright silly. Giggling together is pure joy in any age!
- They feature fears, problems or subjects children can relate to, such as being scared of monsters under the bed, learning to share, being brave, being naughty, starting school, or even disliking vegetables.
- They star favourite characters, like pirates, dinosaurs, fairies and animals.
- They allow kids to explore imaginary places or other worlds, such as outer space or under the sea.
- They are tried and trusted classics, like fairy tales. They remain firm favourites, and also can be nostalgic and memorable to the parents reading them.
6. What Age Should I Stop Reading Bedtime Stories?
Never, we say! There’s no cut-off point for reading to your child, though there is evidence that stopping too early might have an adverse effect on children’s literacy levels.
As long as your child enjoys it, there’s no reason to stop, and the longer you carry on reading bedtime stories, the more reading tips and strategies they’ll pick up from you. By sharing stories, you’re teaching them about tone, expression, creating tension, pronunciation, and sharing new words. They’re learning without trying. As they become more competent readers, you can even alternate reading chapters to each other and use apps with guided reading to build their confidence too. Read for as long as you can and enjoy the memories you are creating for life.
7. Why Are Bedtime Stories Important?
For all of the reasons listed above, but we’ll give you a quick summary of their key benefits. Here are 12 reasons why bedtime stories are important:
1. They give you a uniquely special ‘together time’ as a family.
2. They leave your children with happy childhood memories.
3. They help develop early language skills.
4. They boost vocabulary at all age levels.
5. They improve literacy rates in children.
6. They help kids fall in love with reading – something that lasts a lifetime.
7. They expand minds and horizons, and explore difference.
8. They promote imaginative thinking and creativity.
9. They teach children positive values.
10. They give children characters or situations they can relate to and learn from.
11. They foster a greater understanding of the world and other people and their needs.
12. They bring happiness and laughter.
We’re sure you can think of many more reasons to add to this list.
There are few things in the world that give so many positive benefits, but take so little effort and are so enjoyable to do.
Read happily ever after, everyone!