If you’re anything like me, you grew up being tucked into bed by your parents and reading a bedtime story together. Chances are, those memories still warm your heart and make you feel loved. So many children today are missing out on the magic of bedtime stories. It’s time we as mamas or teachers spread the word on the importance of this ritual. Bringing bedtime stories back is critical for our children and our families.
5 Benefits of Bedtime Stories
Countless researchers have touted the benefits of bedtime stories. But you don’t have to have a Ph.D. in child development or education to understand how critical they really are. In fact, many of the benefits are common sense.
1. Bedtime stories give kids and parents valuable bonding time.
As working parents, we often feel so much guilt over how much of our children’s lives we miss out on. Then there’s the hustle and bustle of soccer practice, dinner time, homework, and baths, so that bedtime is often one more rushed part of a crazy day. By slowing down and reading to and with your child, you’ll gain precious moments of cuddles and togetherness that you would’ve otherwise missed out on.
2. Bedtime stories help improve children’s reading skills.
Who doesn’t want their child to be a great reader? By hearing you model fluent reading and expression, your child will improve in his or her own reading. You can even take turns reading pages to your child and having him read to you. This will keep your child from being tired out by the session and will give you an opportunity to hear how your child is progressing as a reader while giving them valuable practice in a non-threatening read-aloud session.
3. Bedtime stories help develop children’s vocabularies and background knowledge.
Your child can often understand the meaning of words long before he or she can actually decode and read them independently. Children will pick up on context clues and determine the meaning of new words as you read to them. This is especially true if you choose some books that are above your child’s reading level to read to them during bedtime stories. Of course, the book needs to be interesting and hold your child’s attention. But it doesn’t have to be on their reading level if you are the one reading to them. As your child is exposed to new ideas and new words in these nightly reading sessions, his background knowledge will increase as well.
4. Bedtime stories encourage a genuine love of reading.
To this day, I read bedtime stories. 😉 Granted, they’re on my Kindle. But I can’t seem to go to sleep without curling up with a good book. I have no doubt this love of reading started in the lap of my mom and dad as we read classic stories together before bed. Children who are read to and with regularly by their parents will have positive associations when it comes to books. Reading will invoke happy memories, and books will be associated with love. We all want our children to love reading….to genuinely love reading. So, read them bedtime stories!
5. Bedtime stories establish a routine and set children up for a good night’s sleep.
Children need a nightly routine. They need to know what is expected and what is coming next. I think all humans need a routine, frankly. Getting your children into the habit of following nighttime procedures will make bedtime much less stressful, and everyone (including YOU!) will be calm and relaxed at bedtime. After bath time and tooth brushing, snuggle up for a good book (or three!).
Fun Ideas for Bedtime Reading
1. Bring back the classics.
There are certain books that every child should read–or have read to them. Childhood favorites that will forever be etched in their memories. There are classic picture books and classic chapter books. And don’t get me wrong, big kids need to hear picture books sometimes. And little kids are capable of listening to a chapter a night. So mix it up, but please bring back the classics. You can download a list of classic bedtime stories here. Just think of this as your Bedtime Stories Bucket List and see how many you can cross off! 😉
2. Do the unexpected.
Who says bedtime stories have to consist of lying in bed reading a book together? Do something different! Read outside in the summer. Have flashlight Friday and read in the dark by the light of a flashlight. Read a children’s magazine together instead of a book. Kids always love Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, and American Girl. Check out these magazine ideas. You could even suggest that relatives give your child a magazine subscription instead of a toy at Christmas or for their birthday. Make bedtime reading a fun and exciting experience. By changing things up, your child won’t get tired of the notion of bedtime stories.
3. “Shop” for books at the library.
Let’s face it. We all get tired of reading the same books time after time. And it’s not always feasible to invest in new books. So “shop” for books at the library. Your child will be thrilled to sign up for a library card. Designate a special bag as your “book bag”, and set aside one afternoon each week to stop by your local library. Turn in last week’s books, and help your child select new books for the coming week. (You may even find a few books you want to read in your own quiet reading time!). Libraries often have not only the classics, but the newest books on the market as well. And they’re FREE! I think this would make the perfect “book” bag!
4. Play Book BINGO as a family.
Print out a fun Book BINGO card and work on crossing off all sections of the card as you read together. This will encourage children to explore new genres and new books instead of always insisting that you read their favorites. It’ll get your family out of the reading rut and will add a little excitement to your bedtime stories routine. You can grab this printable here.
How Teachers can Encourage Family Bedtime Stories
I get that many of you reading this are teachers. I, myself, am a teacher. So how can we use our influence as teachers to encourage our students and their families to develop a bedtime story routine? First of all, I think parents need to understand how critical bedtime stories are. If they understand all that their children can gain from this simple nightly routine, they’ll be more apt to participate. Furthermore, if you help them develop a game plan for incorporating the routine into their home lives, they’ll feel confident and motivated to jump on board. I’ve prepared a helpful handout you can send home with parents. I also suggest attaching the other printables I’ve included above. Grab your handout here.
Are you interested in even more great book suggestions for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders? And a free summer reading program? Check out this post!
Whether you’re a teacher or a parent (or both!), I hope you better understand the benefits of bringing back bedtime stories. I hope you’ll start to make them a priority in your own family. Now, I’m off to curl up with a good book. 😉
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