Bring Back Bedtime Stories! One school's campaign to get kids reading
Published on: 23 April 2017 Author: Gillian Washington
South Parade Primary School teacher Gillian Washington was shocked to discover how many of her students weren't getting a bedtime story every night - so she decided to do something about it.
The campaign to Bring Back Bedtime Stories started in the early hours of the morning... there was a long-standing niggle in my mind about how many children were coming into school no longer knowing traditional tales, nursery rhymes or how to respond to a book.
What was going wrong? I knew the answer... lots of busy, stressed out parents who don't really know how important reading and sharing stories can be. And so BBBS was born.
We discovered that in many of our classes, less than a third of the children were having stories read to them and over 50% were going to bed with the TV on. I soon found out that this was the situation across the country, and I was horrified - if this pattern continues then bedtime stories could be in danger of becoming extinct.
Eventually, after talking to colleagues and the author Jane Hissey, we settled on a simple message for our campaign: please read or tell stories to your children as often as you can, as early as you can!
How we got the parents involved
I really and truly believe that most parents are totally unaware of how important reading or telling a story is, and how it can relax both parties, create emotional bonds, stimulate a child's development, help children in developing empathy and so much more.
So we decided to hold a launch evening for carers to explain the benefits of bedtime stories for them and their children. We designed the evening so that the children could come back to school with PJs and teddies if they wanted, and then they would get to have stories and hot chocolate with their teachers while we spoke to the parents.
I got the children involved in getting their parents to come, too. We made banners in class, and every evening before the event, we had children chanting at hometime:
'What do we want? Bedtime stories! When do we want them? Tonight! Do we want TVs? No! Do we want computers? No! Do we want phones? No! What do we want? Bedtime stories!'
The parents didn't know what to make of it... so they came. And there were around 200 of them!
How we kicked off the campaign
My colleagues at school were fantastic on launch night, making the classrooms inviting with Smartboards replicating fires, starry night backgrounds, subdued lighting, torches, cushions and, of course, lots of hot chocolate.
And when we spoke to the parents, we simply told them how important a bedtime story is - not just for the immense educational benefits, but also for the precious, magical and important family moments too. We also made a school pledge that we would read to the children and share a book for pleasure every day.
That's not all, though. We're running book swaps and story boxes where books can be borrowed each evening, and we're asking celebrities for quotes and videos on social media to help make bedtime reading cool.
It's already paying off
All of our hard work is worth it, because we're already getting fabulous feedback from parents who simply didn't realise how much of a difference reading and sharing stories can have.
One child said they were "so excited" their mummy was going to read them a bedtime story, while another parent joked: "You owe me a bed!" It turned out her husband and twin sons were so excited about the bedtime story that they jumped on the bed - and promptly broke it.
So BBBS is already having a positive impact on our children and their parents' lives. Now I would love it if the campaign took off and families across the nation could reconnect with the magic of storytelling again - and make sure that bedtime stories never become extinct!