Reading bedtime stories to children has always been a common practice in households throughout North America. However, it has recently become less common. More parents are opting to leave behind the bedtime ritual and instead pacifying their children with electronic games.
Reading to your child before bed has a number of benefits that can improve not only your child’s life but your life as well.
Reading to your child before bed every night increases their ability to read and write. Whether they are school-aged or not, it’s not too late to unlock your child’s potential. Introducing your child to a diverse range of books and genres at an early age also exposes them to a variety of words and ideas that they will take with them to school. Toddlers especially benefit from learning about objects and ideas outside of their direct surroundings. These stories will help your child understand more abstract concepts later in life.
Reading to your child will also make them better readers in school. That sounds obvious, but it’s important to understand how reading aloud can help your toddler become an ace reader. When you read to a child, they begin learning how different words sound. Emphasizing certain sounds such as the “ee” in cheese or the “oo” in food makes it easier for your child to process those sounds. The more they hear them, the faster they can process them. This helps your child hear the difference between similar words and gives them the skill set to be able to dissect more complicated words.
Bedtime stories are a great way to improve your child’s communication skills. The books you read supply them with new vocabulary and the context in which those words are used. Your child will learn how to better express themselves and describe the world around them. Bedtime is also an ideal time to sit down and talk to your son or daughter, allowing them to practice using the words they learned in a comfortable environment that they associate with reading and learning.
Children’s books are full of alliteration and rhymes. Finding these patterns is one of the main ways that children learn and retain information. The more often they encounter certain patterns, the faster they will recognize them, which gives them a leg up in school.
Reading books with your child before they go to bed can also sharpen and enhance their problem-solving skills. If you read the same book many times, your child will eventually learn the pattern of the story. They can begin to predict what happens next based on what they remember. They can also apply this skill to stories they have not read before, especially ones that teach similar lessons. After reading about how Little Red Riding Hood disobeyed her mother and got in trouble a few dozen times, your child can begin to guess at what happens when Peter Rabbit disobeys his mother and enters Mr. McGregor’s garden.
Bedtime stories are especially useful for teaching your child valuable lessons. Kids are more likely to obey rules when they understand why those rules are in place. Books give your child context for these lessons without ever actually experiencing the negative consequences of breaking the rules.
Bedtime isn’t just for education. It is the perfect time to cuddle up and spend some quality time with your child, especially if you have to spend most of the day apart due to work or school. Spending time together every day before bed reinforces the bond between a parent and their child, and gives them both the opportunity to talk. One on one time with your children every night gives them a safe space where they know they will be okay. They know what to expect, and studies show that children feel more relaxed in those situations. After a stressful day of school, nothing is more comforting to a child than undivided attention and affection from their parents.
Getting your child comfortable also increases the other effects of bedtime stories. When they are relaxed, they are more open to learning. So cuddle up with your child under a plush blanket on a super comfortable mattress, and spent some quality time together.
Children generally like to have a routine. Just like many adults, children like to know what’s coming next. Having a bedtime routine signals to the child that it is actually time to sleep. They get a story, and then it’s bedtime. Having a bedtime routine ensures that they fall asleep at an appropriate time and get enough rest. Having a routine also helps reduce stress and the number of times a child is likely to wake up in the middle of the night. It helps them learn about time and time management. A bedtime routine can even help ease your child into doing their chores on their own. It encourages independence and soon enough your child may be the one reminding you that it’s bedtime.
Technology is advancing quickly and children are spending a lot of time on their electronic devices doing what kids do (maybe buying a mattress?) until they fall asleep. Reading children's stories at bedtime is becoming a rarer practice, but the benefits of reading to your child are abundant. It makes them smarter, happier, and more responsible. Don’t sleep on this opportunity to bond with your child and unlock their potential.
Here are some resources to find bedtime stories that you can read to your child online:
Storyberries is a website that offers access to a massive collection of children's stories
Stories to Grow By is another online collection which offers many classic bedtime stories
Robert Munsch is a popular Canadian author. This Spotify playlist offers his stories in an audiobook format for the blind and visually impaired, or if you just want to follow along.