Bedtime & Books; The perfect ending to a great day – Valerie Birch with Amazing Little Sleeper – Omaha, NB

Recently I was asked about my thoughts regarding reading to a child before bedtime. The concern was that reading would stimulate the mind too much and lead to poor or delayed sleep. The concern came about through an article on the internet.

This isn’t that surprising considering all the contradicting information out there; about sleep training, breastfeeding, immunizations, how to feed your child and the list goes on and on. You name it, you can find arguments for any side. It’s confusing. It’s exhausting.

I’m here to share my philosophy about reading at bedtime: read, READ, ReAd! Bedtime and books are a perfect way to end a great day (and those not so great days too!).

Reading to our children is essential in their development of reading and literacy. Not to mention a fun, relaxing time to spend with them, exploring new worlds, ideas, and funny times. Books are amazing! To add to that, it’s also the single more important way to help our children prepare for school and even ready themselves. We are our children’s #1 teacher! What an honor! The best way to build that solid foundation for learning and being successful begins with you reading to them! And reading at bedtime is the perfect time! Here’s more:

1. CREATES A BOND
Our days can be hectic which leads to little opportunity to just be with our children. Having a routine that includes reading at the end of the day can create that enjoyable, relaxing time together. A way to connect after a long day apart. Read whatever your child is interested in. Read the same book four times in a row. Reading aloud doesn’t have to be complex or a variety of stories. Enjoy the quality time together and build a strong bond over books.

2. ESTABLISHES A HABIT & A LOVE FOR READING
Shared reading helps children develop an interest in reading. And children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves…and later have a love of reading. When you make reading a pleasure, you’ll never have to encourage your kids to read, they’ll just read! Not only are we creating a habit of reading, but it’s also a habit that happens before sleep, and this consistency can lead to calmer, smoother and more enjoyable bedtime routines and sleep. Reading and sleeping can go hand-in-hand.

3. HOW YOU READ WITH YOUR CHILD IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERY FAMILY
Remove the image that you and your child will be snuggled up in bed or a cozy chair flipping through their favorite book. Yes, some children love cuddling while reading books, yet others do not – and that is okay! There are many nights where I sit on the floor and read aloud while my two-year-old son plays with his cars near by. There is no wrong way to read to a child; it’s more important about speaking out loud and introducing new vocabulary. Don’t force a child to sit on your lap; instead allow them to do what is comfortable for them as you drive through a juicy new story.

4. READING IS ESSENTIAL FOR SCHOOL SUCCESS
Learning to read begins well before a child starts school. From the time they are infants, children learn language and other important skills that will help them learn to read. Developing early literacy skills makes it easier for children to read once they begin school.

“A 3-year study conducted by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley in 1995, found that by age 3, children in higher-income families had heard 30 million more words than children in low-income families. This 30 million word difference by age three is important because children from the Hart and Risley study who were assessed again at age 9 showed a very clear link between their academic success and the number of words they were exposed to by age three.” *http://www.lblreaders.org/page.aspx?q=30-million-words

5. EARLY LITERACY BEGINS WITH YOU!

Other ways to encourage your child’s literacy skills:

Talking. Allow your child to talk to you, not just listen to you talk. Back-and-for conversation.

The biggest communication problem is we don’t listen to understand, we listen to reply. This is the same for our children. HEAR them. Acknowledge them. Validate them. Sometimes they don’t want our answer, they just want us to listen.

Singing is a wonderful way to learn about language. Enjoy nursery rhymes so your child can hear the different sounds and rhythms with words.

Children learn a lot about language through play, especially unstructured playtime. This is a great time for them to use their imagination and create stories about what they’re doing.

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. And writing begins with scribbles and other marks. Offer opportunities to draw and write.

Have a prop box or costumes for dramatic and imaginative play.

Make sure books are easily assessable to your child. Make a special spot in the home such as reading nook.

Visit the library!

Show your child how important reading is by reading yourself. Books, magazines, articles, etc.

Reading to your child does not need to be left only to bedtime, but I find in our hectic day, establishing books at bedtime is the best way to ensure we read to our child every day! Read, read, read!!