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Guest Blog – Mr Copping: The Value Of A Bedtime Story

Mr Copping reading a story to Nursery pupils

Although my two children are now in their early/late teens I fondly remember bedtime stories even when, on occasion, I almost fell asleep myself mid-sentence!

The National Literacy Trust says that less than half of children are read to every day. This varies across ages with 58% in the pre-school years being read to daily, then dropping back when reading becomes a ‘school’ activity. The same research also shows that screen time is increasing rapidly even for babies.

Back in March we celebrated World Book Day across school – a fantastic event celebrating the importance of books and demonstrating the children’s thirst and desire for reading. In the Junior School we have made a significant investment over the last two years in ensuring that all the children have access to high quality texts in order to inspire their love of books.

As our lives get busier and technology gets smarter, I thought it would be worth reflecting on the many benefits of bedtime stories and reasons to make bedtime stories a priority whenever you can:

Creating conversation

Reading the words on the page is only part of the experience. Asking questions, explaining concepts and talking about what is happening is extremely important. One of my favourite books for this, ‘You Choose!’ by Pippa Goodhart is fabulous for creating discussion. As children get older, choosing books which follow their natural interests, or trying out stories where they make up their own ending can be really good at hooking children in.

Wizards, fairies and monsters. Books open up whole new worlds to children, both real and imagined, and sharing a bedtime story will take children to places they’d never dreamed of.

Encouraging independence

A report by the Reading Agency found that children are more likely to read through free choice if reading is enjoyable in the first place, and reading to your child at bedtime is a great way to help them fall in love with books. Children who get more exposure to books from a young age are more likely to want to read independently. Reading to your child won’t make them less likely to read by themselves.

On this note, children seeing their parents as avid readers also has a significant impact on developing reading habits in children. Talking about the books you are reading can also be enormously beneficial. I regularly tell my children about books I am reading. Often they show little interest (!) but occasionally there is one which hits the mark. I recently read ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight – his autobiography charts the development of Nike. My son, due to his love of trainers, asked lots of questions, and in so doing, created several conversations I never imagined we would have! My wife has just read ‘The Midnight Library’ by Matt Haig and we had a huge family discussion about the concept of the book -to undo a regret and try out a life you may have lived.

Expanding vocabulary

Reading a bedtime story will give your child exposure to new words and build their vocabulary. Children need to hear a word up to 12 times before they start using it themselves. At an early age, reading the same book every night can have a positive impact on vocabulary development. In addition to reading words on a page, rhymes, rhythms and patters will help boost children’s reading, writing and language.

Emotional intelligence

Books can help children deal with emotions and feelings. A bedtime story can be the perfect opportunity to discuss challenging situations, providing a platform for discussing difficult topics and giving a structure to these conversations. Bedtime stories will provide an opportunity to expand a child’s emotional vocabulary, giving them words for how they are feeling. For example, the Book Trust provides some fantastic recommendations linked to loss and grief.

Some of my favourite bedtime stories…

  • ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak
  • ‘The Twits’ by Roald Dahl
  • The ‘Alex Rider’ Series (older children)
  • And my favourite… ‘The Story Of The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business’ by Werner Holzwarth. This story is about one of children’s favourite subjects…..poo! The mole investigates who is responsible for doing their business on his head. A great story and thorough investigation!

Finding time!

In the hustle and bustle of daily life certain tasks can be easily overlooked. Making reading part of your child’s bedtime will make it less likely to forget, even if you do occasionally fall asleep yourself!

Dr Paul Owen: I am most grateful to Matthew Copping, Head of the Junior School, for this ‘guest’ blog entry.