Why bedtime stories are so important - and how schools can help

Published on: 08 April 2018 Author: Fiona Phimister

Last year, 43% of children in Bradford left primary school unable to read at the expected level for their age.

In an attempt to tackle this, schools have teamed up to work together. School Development Co-Ordinator at Bowling Park Primary, Fiona Phimister, tells us about a special event organised by nine local primary schools to help inspire families to read more at home.

West Bowling's bedtime stories event

Ice cream on a sunny day, splashing in muddy puddles, building dens - this is what childhood is made of. A story before bedtime is another stalwart of our younger years and one which has the potential for lasting impact on our lives.

Reading at home not only increases academic ability, but it also helps to strengthen family relationships and foster a lifelong love of books. This is particularly important for primary-age children who go through a period of great change between the ages of 4 and 11: they are learning to read, discovering their likes and dislikes and taking their first big steps into the world.

A bedtime story can be the anchor to all this, helping children to explore new feelings, new experiences and new knowledge in a safe environment.

Cuddling together with your parents, grandparents, carers or siblings to share an adventure or talk about a story before happily drifting off to sleep is an idyllic image that should be every child's reality.

West Bowling's bedtime stories event

It isn't surprising, then, that areas with low levels of home reading also have lower literacy levels. This is an issue facing many communities across the country, including West Bowling in Bradford. As a response to this and to the tougher SATs exams, myself and eight other primary schools in West Bowling have come together to help equip our children with the necessary skills to face these and future challenges as they move to secondary school and beyond.

Making Bedtime Stories fun

We want to inspire families to read more at home, not only to increase literacy levels but also to encourage children to become well-rounded readers with a passion for books. The Bedtime Stories event is a chance to do this.

It's a mini festival of book-related frivolity, free to all the families from the nine schools, and showcases some of the best authors, storytellers and poet. Hosted by the National Science and Media Museum and Bradford City Library, Bedtime Stories introduces families to two of Bradford's very best facilities and, hopefully, enthuses them to pick up a book and get reading!

West Bowling's bedtime stories event

This year marked the third anniversary of Bedtime Stories. We had a twist on our usual theme and focused on non-fiction.

Reading doesn't just happen in story books - it happens all the time in a variety of mediums and situations from recipe books to street signs, textbooks to encyclopaedias. The more children read, the better!

This year, Tony De Saulles of Horrible Science fame delighted crowds with his interactive drawing session, Jon Chase helped children discover their inner rap artist with his science-inspired lyrics and ZooLab brought myths and legends to life with their creepy crawlies.

West Bowling's bedtime stories event

Nadia Shireen also gave a hilarious rendition of The Bumblebear and Stacey Kelly showcased her story activity boxes for toddlers. Over 1,000 people from our school communities attended the event; an unprecedented number in an area of low parent engagement. It was fantastic to see so many children and adults enjoying books and feeling empowered to read more at home.

If just one child reads more because of this event, then we will be very proud of what we have achieved and hopefully, one day, that idyllic image of every child enjoying a bedtime story really will be a reality.

For more information about reading with children and book reviews, check out Fiona's blog What Willow Read or follow her on Instagram @whatwillowread.

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