The key to literacy? How about a bedtime story?

bedtime-storyIt’s an age-old tradition that goes back many, many years. The bedtime story. Once hailed as a precious and protected time when parents could connect with their kids in an intimate and sacred way over fantastical stories, the bedtime story is now actually in danger of extinction! With the advent of the digital phone, and the electronic tablet, and the over-saturation of television shows taking over households, so many other options for ‘entertainment’ have replaced the simplicity of this nourishing bedtime routine. In fact, even when parents do believe in sharing this coveted time with their kids, research shows that many stop the process of reading to their kids at the time when they are able to read to themselves – right when they still need it most for future development of literacy.

The reason why parental reading is so important.

Author and winner of the 2004 Carnegie Medal, Frank Cottrell Boyce lamented the diminishing practice of parents reading to children. He commented, “The joy of a bedtime story is the key to developing a love of reading in children.” He went on to express that this is a greater influencer than school literacy lessons which he illuminates as being a potentially, “very negative experience. He says this is because the children are “being taught to read before anyone has shared with them the pleasure of reading – so what motivation have they got to learn? Even the ones that attain high levels of ‘literacy,’ … are in danger of achieving that without ever experiencing the point of reading.” This is where the participation of parents reading to their children becomes of vital importance.

Parents need to be aware of what the kids want!

While many parents say they don’t seem to have the time or interest to read to their children, Catherine Bell, managing director of Scholastic says that the kids themselves are interested in it. She explains that, “what’s really interesting [is that] as children acquire the skills to read themselves, parents back off. It comes across really clearly. When parents stopped, the children wanted them to continue. They thought it was a really special time with their parents and they felt really positive about it.

How to make it all happen.

Acclaimed children’s author Michael Rosen gives his advice on how to make it work, and for some families, it can be as simple as removing the television from the child’s bedroom. He shared some observations that he learned from asking kids, “How many of you watch TV till you go to sleep?” He found that more than half of the kids questioned said yes! Other children only need for their parents to pay attention to the fact that even though they might be starting to read on their own, they still greatly value being read to, which is a wonderful thing because with each reading session a parent gives the gift of greater literacy that will last a lifetime.

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