If you’ve ever enjoyed the cosy comfort of listening to a bedtime story when you were little, you’ll know just how much it can mean. It’s a chance to spend some real one on one time with a parent, just you and them in the half dark, listening to something fun or exciting (or both) and getting ready for a good night’s sleep.
If you have children of your own, the chances are, however, that you won’t be reading them a bedtime story. According to a survey recently undertaken, around one third of parents don’t read their children a bedtime story. And it’s not always because they don’t want to or can’t be bothered; it’s a little more complicated and ‘contemporary’ than that.
Lack of Time
We spoke to the sleep experts at Little Lucy Willow and they said that lack of time is a big issue when it comes to bedtime stories. Everyone is busier than ever these days, and that includes the children. We get in late from work or we got up early to get things done before the kids wake up and then, by the time bedtime rolls around (after, perhaps, a stressful dinner time and messy bath time), we look at our to do list and realise there are still items on it that need to be ticked off. So the bedtime story is sacrificed. Children are put to bed with a quick goodnight kiss and a ‘see you in the morning’ and then we’re back to it, making our own dinner, tidying the house, catching up on paperwork… it’s never-ending.
It’s easy to say that parents need to make time to read a story, but it’s also true. Reading a bedtime story is a way of bonding with a child (which is especially important if you are super busy) and it’s a good way of giving them a head start when it comes to literacy and schoolwork. Reading only needs to take 10 minutes or so, and that time can be gained by shortening bath time, for example, or even putting your child to bed 10 minutes earlier in order to have the time to read a story. Look at how you can give yourself and your child that precious 10 minutes reading a story in their bedroom and you’ll find that both of you are much more relaxed when it’s over.
Lack of Confidence
Not all parents are happy at the idea of reading out loud – or reading at all. They lack confidence in their own reading abilities and they don’t want their children to know that they aren’t great readers. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the parent might be concerned that the child will not try so hard with their own reading if they know their mother or father can’t read well (or at all). The second is embarrassment; parents are surely meant to be perfect and invincible, aren’t they?
As anyone who is a parent will testify, there are no such things as perfect parents. There are projections that the world sees, but at home things are usually very different. No one knows how to do this job so we all just get through the best we can and sometimes that means making mistakes. It sometimes means letting our children see that we’re not flawless. So if you are a parent who is not confident in their reading ability, speak to your child about it. They love you; they will understand.
After you have explained why bedtime stories don’t happen, it’s a good idea to find an adult literacy class to join – being able to read well and confidently can make such a difference to your life and to the memories you can make with your children.
Lack of Motivation
Some children simply don’t seem to want a bedtime story. Some adults simply don’t want to read one. Each would rather be doing different things such as watching TV, playing video games, talking with friends – even working and doing household chores come higher on the list of priorities than a bedtime story does sometimes.
If this is the case then sometimes nothing can be done – but sometimes attitudes can be changed. If possible, no matter how much resistance from either side, read a story anyway. It might be that you both realise how much you enjoy it and you choose to incorporate it into your nightly routine. It might be that you still would prefer to do other things. At least if you try you’ll know for sure.
Ella Hendrix is a versatile freelance writer, currently covering topics on child behaviour, family psychology and parental guidance.