6 top tips for sharing a book at bedtime
Published on: 02 July 2023 Author: Louise Fitzgerald
Author Louise Fitzgerald knows how to make the most of bedtime reading - in fact, she's just written a picture book about bedtime stories! She shares her advice here...
What better story is there than your own? That's the idea behind The Quickest Bedtime Story Ever! Bedtime is your story – so why not make it one your child and you want to feature in, with all its imperfections, twists and turns, love and laughter?
Sharing a book at bedtime was one of my favourite things to do with my young children. After a hectic day (they all felt like that in the beginning), something about the way we engaged at this point always reassured me the next day might not be such hard work.
It was a time to breathe, a moment of calm, a connected activity for just us two - well, us two and any cuddly toys that could fit on the bed!
Here are some of my thoughts on how to make the most of your shared bedtime reading...
1. Make their bed a comforting place to be
Celebrate wriggling into the covers, plumping up their pillows and snuggling up on their 'island'. Drift off to wherever the books on your bed take you. Sharing a book is an ideal form of escape and a great way to explore your imagination.
We're Going to Find the Monster by Malorie Blackman, illustrated by Dapo Adeola, plays with how to make the ordinary extraordinary by turning homely spaces into places packed with adventure.
2. Approach sharing a book as an event
For us, it was about an experience. We'd laugh, search, swap ideas, we'd make choices, and we played – all within the pages of a book. When we returned to a story, we asked ourselves what else we could find that we hadn't seen before.
Books like the Look and Say What You See series, illustrated by Sebastien Braun, are ideal for this - but then so is any picture book. Can you challenge each other to find an object? Or you could even play I Spy within the pages!
3. Enjoy the ritual...
... of arranging the toys around the duvet, the repetition of piling books in order on your lap, the routine of saying the same thing to them when you kiss them goodnight. Maybe at the time I saw it as just putting them to bed – now I reflect on what a mindful experience it was for us both. We were completely present; word by word, picture by picture, page turn by page turn.
Page-turning can be exciting in itself; you could use this action to create intrigue. I enjoy Andy Lee's Do Not Open this Book, which is illustrated brilliantly by Heath McKenzie.
4) Manage expectations
I allowed my children to choose three stories. They could choose the order, sit whichever side of me they wanted, and cuddle as many toys as they could fit in their arms. But they knew we had a deal. When the last page of the last book was turned, I'd sing them a song, kiss and cuddle them, dim the lights and it was bed.
Set their expectations and uphold your end of the bargain. Give them your full attention. Invest in the story – kids are clever and they know when you're trying to rush things. Books can be different lengths - find a range, so you can balance the time. I love Colin and Lee: Carrot and Pea by Morag Hood for this – simple, short, and superb!
Playing in its simplest form is an act of generosity. Play can be quiet, it can be deep, it can be silly, and it can be so simple. It's powerful. It's doesn't have to be big and brash. Play and add character names to the story, count shapes and pick favourite details within the illustrations. Interactive books like Sam Lloyd's Hello Dudley were always a winner for us.
6) After reading, celebrate getting into bed!
Relish wrapping them in their duvet and kissing their head, their cheek, their nose, even their left eyebrow. Guess How Much I Love You, written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, is perfect for setting up the last kiss goodnight.
I Love You Like Yellow by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by Vashti Harrison is also beautiful – so too is any book that allows you to highlight how much you love your child.
I knew everything my children did was to keep me upstairs a bit longer, so they could stay up a minute more and some nights I came down much later than I had intended. But was it time wasted? No. Would I do it all again? Yes! That's why the protagonist in my book is your child.
Of course, some nights, it was a whole other kind of shared experience. They cried, I shouted, they stomped on the spot, they calmed down, I said sorry. We cuddled and kissed and I said, 'Night-night, sleep tight, dream big, dream bright, you're the bestest kid in the whole-wide-world and I love you, love you, love you!'
I think if you can give your child a concentrated, uninterrupted, fully present moment of your day (even if that's shorter than you'd wish) they'll love you more for it, they'll love books and bedtime more for it, you'll love them more for it and most importantly they'll love themselves more too. What's not to love about that?
Giving your time and sharing a book is the least expensive part of your day... but to my humble mind, it's the most rewarding.
Read our review
Author: Louise Fitzgerald Illustrator: Kate Hindley
Settle down with this laugh-out-loud book – and then get up and join in all the necessary things to do before listening to the super-quick ten-word bedtime story! Huge fun.
We've put together a list of brilliant picture books that would be perfect for reading at bedtime.
Looking for something fun as a family? Enjoy storytime with our free online books and videos, play games, win prizes, test your knowledge in our book-themed quizzes, or even learn how to draw some of your favourite characters.