Wake up to the importance of bedtime reading

Contributed by Toni Parkinson

Head of maths interventions and SEND

Fri 28 Jan 2022

As a mother and an educator, I firmly believe that bedtime reading is an invaluable gift that a parent or guardian can give their child. It takes a little discipline to keep to the nightly routine, but it’s so worth it!

The shared intimacy of snuggling down to share a book with your child as they wind down from the day creates an entirely different relationship with literature from what they experience in their learning environment, or even while reading at home during the day. It is a unique part of your child’s emotional and educational journey – and you will enjoy it too!

Any parent of a teenage or adult child will tell you that bedtime reading is a window of opportunity that is ruefully short. It seems that one minute your pre-school tot is pleading with you to read them their favourite picture book night after night, and, the next, they are a pre-teen badgering you for a mobile phone. One lucky ‘side effect’ of the pandemic is that more people are reading to their children. So, please continue to make the most of this precious time!

The number of years that you and your child will enjoy shared nighttime reading will depend on your particular circumstances. But you can be sure that their choice of reading material will change over time as they explore what they enjoy and what is popular in their peer group. They may start out enjoying magical tales of witches and dragons and end up loving non-fictional books about the world around them. You can encourage this development gently by not pushing them towards your literature choices and showing them that reading for relaxation is something you enjoy too. Bedtime reading can also improve our sleep. What’s not to like?

Bedtime reading benefits shine through in the classroom

Working within schools, I can identify the children who spend regular reading time with their parents, guardians or siblings. Their vocabulary is more advanced, their outlook is more mature, and they find it easier to sit and listen throughout a lesson and take instruction well. But you don’t need to take my word for it; published studies show how reading to children develops their creative and literary abilities.

It is easy to think that reading at home only benefits the development of our language skills, but it is essential for many educational reasons. Without enjoying literature when we are very young, our ability to comprehend language in other contexts is poor.

I teach mathematics (it might surprise you to read that!), and one of the hardest things about maths is teaching children how to answer worded maths questions. Pupils need to have sufficient language skills to find, understand and answer the maths problem hidden within. And this really goes the same with all subjects – it is pretty obvious that you won’t do well in any written exam if you can’t read well enough to tackle the questions!

Books2All blog: Wake up to the importance of bedtime reading by Toni Parkinson
Success in maths relies on good language and comprehension skills

And you get a chance to shine too!

When reading books to children, allow yourself to immerse fully in the activity. Choose stories that you enjoy as much as your child does, as they will pick up on your emotional reaction to the story. Maybe dig out your old childhood favourites if you still have them. Let yourself go, use silly voices, and discuss what the characters might do outside of the book.

Don’t be afraid to change some of the narrative if you feel it would suit your child better. Some children find it hard to accept anything sad in a story, but you can alter it so that the tale doesn’t end on a low point. Encourage their imagination by discussing how the story might develop and indulge their own storylines. Anything is possible in literature and, if we can teach this to our children at an early age, we open up the world for them.

Bedroom reading book 1: 10 minutes till Bedtime by Peggy Rathman

A firm favourite with my children and me, this story has no words at all, apart from the countdown of 10 minutes to bedtime, making it a great choice for an evening when everyone is tired. 10 minutes till Bedtime is about a child getting ready for bed who is visited by an increasing number of hamsters that want a tour of his house. It’s brilliant fun as you can change the story every time you read it. Get your child to have a go as well; their imagination runs riot!

Books2All blog: Wake up to the importance of bedtime reading by Toni Parkinson
10 minutes till Bedtime published by Puffin Books (2004)

Bedroom reading book 2: Alfie Weather by Shirley Hughes

I think I probably enjoyed this book even more than my children. As with all the Alfie stories, Hughes writes Alfie Weather in a gentle tone, tenderly exploring moments in life through the eyes of a child. This delightful tale of young Alfie exploring the outside elements actually gives you a warm glow, too, as you find yourself wanting to be a carefree child again while you read.

Alfie Weather published by Red Fox (2002)

Bedroom reading book 3: The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit by Chris Wormell

Perhaps one for the weekend or bedtime reading during the holidays. The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit is a sophisticated story that explores how we perceive beauty and how those considered ‘different’ can be ostracised. It’s a great tale for teaching your child that beauty is more than skin deep; we all feel and love the same way no matter how we look. Be warned: the ending is sad, but if your child is ready to think about what else could happen if the monster wasn’t ugly, it’s one to consider.

Books2All blog: Wake up to the importance of bedtime reading by Toni Parkinson
The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit published by Red Fox (2005)

Bedroom reading book 5: Falling Angels by Colin Thompson

This beautiful story explores life and death in an utterly wonderful way. Our household spent many happy bedtimes reading the adventures of Sally during her flying dreams. There are lots of things hidden for your child to spot within the spectacular illustrations, making Falling Angels an absolute sleepy time joy.

Books2All blog: Wake up to the importance of bedtime reading by Toni Parkinson
Falling Angels published by Hutchinson (2001)

These are just a small selection of the children’s books in my home. My (now grown-up) daughter has said that she hopes to read these stories to her own children one day. She remembers how they made her feel safe and loved, and that by being read to she found a love of literature that will follow her throughout her life.

Thank you for visiting our blog. Our vision here at Books2All is a world where every child finds the books that help them reach their true potential. If you have spare books in good condition at home that you think might be appropriate for school children or represent a school and would like to register to receive donated books, please download the Books2All app from the App Store or Google Play

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2 thoughts on “Wake up to the importance of bedtime reading”

  1. I used to read Room On the Broom when they were little, such a great book, the rhythm and rhyme are such a joy.

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