7 things I learned reading a bedtime story every night of the year
Published on: 17 January 2019
Kieron read to his three-year-old boy every single day as part of a New Year challenge. Here's why he decided not to give up the resolution at the end of the year...
A year ago, my son T and I started off on an adventure inspired by a New Year’s Resolution to read a bedtime story every night for one year.
Having completed our challenge, it’s fair to say that we both learned a lot over the course of 365 days, 367 different books and 220,200 words!
Here are seven things I learned after reading a bedtime story every day for a year:
1) Reading every day is doable!
Reading has always been an important part of our household but before the challenge it used to be the case that other things got in the way of a bedtime story. Maybe a long day at work? Or a set of books to mark (I'm a primary school teacher), sat waiting in a bag in the hallway? Or maybe someone in the house was a little cranky or out of sorts?
Either way, bedtime did not include a story.
Last year though, a deliberate effort was made – involving everyone in our household – to ensure that a story happened as part of T’s bedtime routine. We made a conscious effort to establish a clear routine – upstairs at 7pm, toilet and teeth, PJs, pick a book, story time, chat, lights out, cuddle and a kiss, sleep – that we stuck to as much as possible.
There were occasions when the routine wasn't workable or I was away, but we always found a workaround.
Gone are the busy/tired/TV/time/work excuses and in their place has been half an hour of “awesome” every night! We even managed to fit in story time around weddings, birthdays and the birth of T’s baby brother – it’s doable!
2) Sometimes it’s OK to be busy
Despite my best efforts, there were a few occasions where I simply couldn’t read a bedtime story with T. Fortunately, I had a back-up reader to hop off the subs bench, but that luxury might not exist for everyone.
However, I found that usually the choice was mine and the time/opportunity was there if I wanted. This is why I struggle with some of the stats on bedtime reading.
A survey by Settle Stories found that 69% of people don't have the time to read at bedtime. A survey by Furniture123 found that only 1 in 10 children heard a bedtime story every night.
Surely, many parents can find the ten minutes needed to fit in a bedtime story? Up next is why…
3) A daily Bedtime Story has had a HUGE impact on T
Here are a few areas where T made masses of progress in 2018:
T always enjoyed playing independently, but his ability to do so without any physical stimulus has improved massively. Just today, we were heading down the cobbles in our home village and T had a biscuit. He was pretending I was the Highway Rat and he was Duck – and I wanted his biscuit!
Lots of picture books pull no punches when it comes to vocabulary. In fact, these are often our favourites. We love chatting about, sounding out and using new words, and lots of these have found their way into T’s everyday language.
Any good book should leave the reader with questions and picture books are no different. T does a great job of taking on board lots of what we discuss. He always asks ‘what’ and ‘why’ when we are reading and doing new things.
Reading widely and diversely on a huge range of topics has had a massive impact on T’s confidence and self-belief. This has helped him make a great start at Big Boy School (nursery).
Love of reading
T’s mum is a massive book nerd, so T has been exposed to books from birth. But now that passion for books has moved on to a new level. T enjoys sharing books with his little brother, will often grab a book and read to himself, and loves visiting our local library (more on that later).
4. Picture Books are BRILLIANT!
When we started off on this journey, I had no idea that picture books could be so diverse and brilliant!
Last year, we read picture books that looked sensitively at refugees, tackled bereavement, discussed loneliness, explored the separation of parents, dealt with our impact on the environment, delved into a variety of emotions, considered the introduction of new siblings, and loads more besides! And we laughed lots and lots at some imaginative, incredible stories.
If you have a lesson you want your child to learn, an event or emotion you want your child to understand, a moral you wish to discuss, or just want something fun to read, you will find a picture book that will do the job brilliantly.
5) Libraries matter – lots!
Early on in our adventure, we signed T up as a member of our local library. We have now borrowed at least 100 brilliant books and done a lot more besides: from story time to crafts and an Enid Blyton exhibition. And the fun doesn’t stop there!
When we signed up, we received a “passport”, which gets stamped every time T visits. As well as the fun of this, it has led to certificates, a free DVD rental and a free swim at our local leisure centre.
On each visit, we also see the impact of our library on other members of the community. Our library does a lot more than lend books!
6) Authors and Illustrators are incredibly friendly and generous with their time
We found this out very early in our adventure, once we read Mighty Small (Day 4)!
Timothy Knapman took the time to respond to our review on Twitter and even added a quote from it to his website. Our excitement at this was an early spur to keep going.
And that's just one example.
Excitingly, all of this interaction led to me co-founding #ukpbchat with @emilyanndavison: a monthly Twitter chat about picture books (8pm on the first Thursday of every month). My highlights included an exciting chat with Tom Percival and a chat with one of our favourite picture book teams – Rachel Bright and Jim Field.
7) A bedtime story has made bedtime MUCH easier for all involved
Time for some honesty – bedtime with T used to be an absolute nightmare! I was a total stresshead about it and evenings often included shouting and tears. The whole episode of bed would take hours and inevitably lead to T co-sleeping with us, or me or mummy asleep in his room – either on the floor or hanging from the edge of his bed!
All of that has gone. Our bedtime routine is well established and, bar the odd occasion, T will be asleep within ten minutes of the end of our story. As a parent for just over four years, I have found that nothing works so successfully at getting your child to sleep!
So will I carry on with my New Year’s resolution?
I think a quote from the awesome author Frank Cottrell-Boyce has hit the nail on the head:
‘Bedtime stories give reading an emotional depth. This is something people have done since the days of sitting around campfires napping flints. Why would you ever stop?’