Bedtime Stories – Who Gains?

Is reading to our children being lost as a sharing experience? Recent research shows that parents would welcome encouragement in reading to their children, while apparently 44% of parents admit that they don’t read a bedtime story to their offspring.   Surely I’m not alone in feeling dismay at these statistics?

In an ideal world the bedtime story should surely be an integral part of childhood, looked forward to at the end of a busy day and a relaxation before sleep. Viewed critically, it actually serves a number of purposes, quite apart from fostering a love of books and reading.

Every parent of young children knows that life with them can, at times, be exasperating.  Toddler tantrums, sibling spats, the sensation that the mess they generate is just a modified version of the Forth bridge paradigm, the list goes on.  So what better than at the end of every day whether good or bad, to curl up together even for 10 minutes, quietly share a book and relax? 

You don’t need a degree in parenting to work out that a relaxed and happy child will sleep more soundly, with obvious benefits for everyone the following day.  What about the subliminal message that this quiet time sends to an overwrought child?  ‘No matter how naughty/grumpy/difficult you’ve been today, I love you and want to share quiet time with you’.  It works once they’ve gone to school too – a time to reconnect in the hub of home, to put the day behind them and relax.  

We’re all aware that life today (contrary to what the advertisements would have us believe) isn’t all rosy cheeked, joyous children with beaming, relaxed Mummies exclaiming over the stain removal capabilities of Whizzo as their offspring trail, mud-spattered and messy, through the house.  Harsh economic reality forces many parents of young children to work outside the home for longer hours than they would wish and there are, after all, only so many hours in a day.

Those times of quiet togetherness can be uplifting for parents too, a few moments of stillness in an otherwise hamster-in-a-wheel world.  Doesn’t it benefit both sides and in business speak is a win-win situation?  The repercussions of its loss extend beyond the obvious – or am I just being old-fashioned?

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