I heard a comment on the radio today that said that a third of children under the age of 7 never have a bed time story read to them, and of the ones that do have stories read to them, only 13% have them read to them every night. On further investigation there are several articles on this of which this one in The Guardian is one.
Now, I’m most certainly not claiming that we are super parents. We definitely take shortcuts, or easy routes, on so many things – from letting Elliot watch episode upon episode of Thomas, or giving up too soon each time we try to get him to eat any recognisable vegetable, and giving in too often when he asks for a new engine, or an ice cream. But, one thing we do do, religiously, is read to him EVERY night, pretty much without fail. We’ve done this since he was about 3 or 4 months old.
I see it as one of the most important things any parent can do. It is a wonderful thing to see a child interested in and gripped by a story – Elliot definitely has his favourites, and these change frequently. We’re currently reading quite a few books about new babies, and becoming a big brother (for obvious reasons!) He is able to recognise many words by sight, and can recount many books himself – especially ones like The Gruffalo!
I can’t imagine a childhood without books. I remember the joy of reading, and devouring book after book once i could read by myself. Maybe its this that makes me certain that spending time reading to Elliot should be at the top of our priority list each evening rather than tidying/hoovering/watching TV. it really saddens me that so many children don’t experience this.
Imagination is so important to a growing child, as is having the ability to empathise with others – these are two things that reading teaches without us having to really get involved.
The other reason I think reading every day is a good idea is that much debated subject among mummy-types: the routine. Having a set bedtime routine since Elliot was very tiny, regardless of the highs and lows of the day, has meant that we have had a child that 99% of the time sleeps right through and wakes happy and excited to start his day. Again, I don’t claim to be any sort of expert, but for us it seemed common sense that if our little man had the same bedtime cues each evening – bath, milk, stories, bed – that he’d soon realise what these meant and we’d have a child that went to bed easily. Ok so it doesn’t always work, and we do occasionally have tears and tantrums, but he knows the routine, and we just follow it through regardless of any tantrums and we end up with a child in bed, mostly before 8, and then an evening to ourselves. I really do think that reading every night has helped with that.
Elliot now happily sits and “reads” by himself, and some of his favourite trips are to the library or the book shop to choose new books to bring home.
Secretly I’m hoping that the Pirate Pete Potty Book, and Charlie and Lola: I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato, will go some way to helping us with our current challenges in other areas of parenting – after all, books are magic!
Watch this space…