Six reasons why it's important to read bedtime stories to your children
As well as helping children relax, reading them a bedtime story boosts their learning and improves bonding with parents. Lisa Salmon finds out more
FINDING the time to read a bedtime story to a child has huge benefits – both for the child and the person doing the reading.
"Reading a regular bedtime story to children is a simple activity that encourages children to enjoy reading and gets them into good reading habits that will set them up for the future," says Judith Parke from the National Literacy Trust (NLT). "When parents encourage their children to read at home, it can make a big difference to their wellbeing and how successful they are at school, and beyond."
"With hectic day and evening schedules, there's the constant irresistible lure of the tablet, which pulls family members into their isolated technological bubbles," adds child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson. "Set aside a few minutes to read a short story to, or with, your child, and then [have] a quick chat about what they liked about the story, and what they felt when listening to it.
"That small effort will help boost your child's sense of wellbeing, bring you closer together, and add another warm and nurturing experience to family life."
Here, the National Literacy Trust (literacytrust.org.uk) and booksellers The Book People – who have found six out of 10 parents dedicate time every evening to read bedtime stories to their children – outline six reasons why reading before bed is so beneficial...
1. It relaxes children and improves wellbeing
The NLT has found children who enjoy reading are three times more likely to have good mental wellbeing than children who don't enjoy it.
Parke points out that kids love to snuggle up with a book at bedtime, and research shows that seven in 10 children say bed is their favourite place to read. Plus, "reading stories at night makes for a calm bedtime," Parke notes.
2. It helps children learn
Reading aloud to children stimulates their imagination, helps them learn, and develops their listening and language skills by exposing them to a range of vocabulary they may not be familiar with, says The Book People. This is hugely beneficial to children's progression at school as it helps develop their concentration, memory, listening and imagination in a fun and creative way.
Research shows a direct correlation with children who enjoy reading and writing (80 per cent) and those that do better in language and literacy subjects.
The NLT says reading with your child for as little as 10 minutes a day can significantly boost how well they do at school, and Parke stresses: "Reading with your child gets them to enjoy reading, and children who enjoy reading do better at school. Reading for pleasure can also contribute to positive social outcomes and help with making friends."
3. It boosts parent-child bonding
The research found more than half of parents (60 per cent) use books as a way to get their children to open up to them, to find out how they're feeling and spark conversations. While 54 per cent of parents believe setting time aside to read to their children at bedtime brings them closer together and is vital for their bonding time.
4. It makes children happier than screen time
Many parents believe it's important to encourage children to switch off from the digital world and enjoy books instead, and The Book People says its research shows 90 per cent of children are happiest when reading and writing, rather than watching their favourite cartoon, or playing the latest computer games.
5. It encourages independent reading
When you read bedtime stories with your child, it makes them more likely to read by themselves too, often sparking a lifelong love of books. "Bedtime is the perfect opportunity to get your child reading regularly," says Parke.
6. It inspires children
The power of reading allows children to transport their minds to faraway fictional worlds, and live the lives of characters in their imagination. It can also spark inspiration, and encourage them to create stories of their own.
The Book People is running a Bedtime Story competition, in partnership with Save the Children.
Young writers aged five to 11 from Britain and Northern Ireland are invited to write a 200 to 800 word story on the theme of feelings, and send it to The Book People at thebookpeople.co.uk/bedtimestory by November 8.
Entries will be chosen by head judge and author Giovanna Fletcher, and the winner will have their story illustrated by Lucy Fleming and published by Little Tiger. They’ll also win £250 of books for themselves, and £250 of books for their school.