Why the bedtime story will soon be your favourite time of the day (if it isn't already)

Published on: 07 January 2019 Author: Fiona Phimister

Fiona Phimister talks about the importance of the bedtime story, both for bonding and child development. Here's why it can be so special...

Seven pm is my favourite time of day. Not 12.15pm when I go for lunch, or 4.30pm, when I finish work. No, 7pm is the best time of day. By this time, my 17 month old is in her pyjamas, she has had a bath and brushed her teeth, and is settling down for a good night’s sleep.

At 7pm, just before bed, my partner and I take her to the big cosy armchair in her room, where we cuddle up for a bedtime story. It is the happiest of moments; safe, warm and special. Something we can share for many years to come. 

The impact that these tiny moments will have on her development will, hopefully, help her to become a lifelong lover of stories and encourage vocabulary development and literacy skills. It also helps to reinforce the special bond that we have. This is increasingly important in our busy family life, when the rest of the day is hectic – our bedtime story routine is a moment of quiet that we enjoy together.

'Storytelling, imagination and wonder'

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew that every child had this experience? Sadly, there are many areas in the country where home reading levels are low and children do not have access to books. The area where I work in Bradford is an area just like that. It is fantastically diverse with many hardworking families. However, literacy levels are below average and we often find that children do not read at home.

The nine primary schools’ in the area are keen to tackle this. We want to foster a passion for books in our children, help them to fall in love with stories, and champion reading in all its forms. As part of this, the schools have developed a special event called Bedtime Stories.

Hosted by the National Science and Media Museum, the event takes place once a year after school. Families are invited to attend and get the chance to take part in all kinds of different activities based around storytelling, imagination and wonder.

In October last year, we hosted our fourth event. It was attended by over 1,400 people from the local area (an unprecedented amount in an area of low parental engagement). We had performances from authors Zanib Mian and Scott Allen, 3D pen and graffiti workshops, comic book and shadow puppet workshops and lots more.

Just ten minutes is all you need

The varied nature of the event hopes to show families that storytelling is a wonderful activity to share together. One of the great things about reading is that it is an easy and cheap activity. The books I read with my daughter often come from my local charity shop or have been passed on by friends.

It takes a mere 10 minutes to fit a story in to our bedtime routine but it makes a world of difference, so it really is a quick win! You can make it fun and varied, using poetry, non-fiction books, flash cards or anything else you can think of to keep your child engaged.

In the area around our schools, we often find that parents do not feel confident with written or spoken English. This can lead to families feeling nervous about reading with their children. However, it doesn’t matter what language you read in, the most important thing is to simply take the time to share a story! Picture books, nursery rhymes and oral stories are also a great way to spend time together at home and do not require knowledge of written word.

However you do it, reading at home is a beautiful and special experience that we hope lots of families take part in. It is my favourite time of the day, and I hope it is yours, too. 

Fiona Phimister is the school development co-ordinator at Bowling Park Primary School in Bradford. 

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