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Are bedtime stories really in decline?

A recent tabloid headline got our attention.

Half of all parents too busy to read a bedtime story to children’ Read the article headline, published earlier this month in the Daily Mail.

The story was based on research compiled on behalf of Silentnight, themselves hoping to promote their own ‘Book at Bedtime’ competition.  1,000 parents were quizzed about reading to their children at bedtime, and although 97 per cent agreed that reading to children before bedtime was of developmental benefit, only 53 per cent confirmed that they did, in fact, read to their children at this time.

Most parents that said they did not read to their children, said that they did not do so, based on being too embarrassed to read out aloud to them.  The study also revealed that half of the children under 12 watch DVDs in bed

This, in isolation, is a worrying figure, but I am unsure that 1,000 parents being questioned is enough to gain a real idea of how many children are read to at bedtime across the county, and is possibly sensationalist to offer a headline saying that half of ALL children are not read to before lights out.

I certainly hope that the reality is much brighter to that recorded by this research, but have looked back to a blog post I wrote in October, based on the annual study compiled for Booktrust, which found DVDs increasingly popular amongst older children at bedtime.

For me, as a parent, bedtime reading has always felt right, but I can sympathise with parents that feel uneasy with reading out aloud, I’ve been self conscious in the presence of visitors, and on the odd occasion I have had to read in public, but really, what is the bigger issue?

Reading to a child is obviously of immense benefit, and the joy in watching a child revel in being read to, and then reading themselves, is something every parent should enjoy.  It really should be, and is, a parent’s privilege.

Inspiration is all around us, not only in the faces, ears and mouths of our children, but if you need further encouragement, look no further than Jim Brozina, and his daughter Kristen from Millville, New Jersey.

Mr Brozina and his youngest daughter, enjoyed a nine year ‘streak’ of reading together each night.

Inspired by the failure to continue reading to his eldest daughter once she had learnt to read herself, the elementary school librarian decided to not make the same mistake again.  Initially setting himself and his youngest daughter the target of reading for 100 nights on-the-trot, which then became 1,000, and so on.

A truly wonderful story, and hopefully one virtually replicated all over the World, between parent and child.

I am unsure where we are in our streak, but it is incredible rare of us to have a night without reading.

But how about you? Can you beat Mr Brozina?

12 thoughts on “Are bedtime stories really in decline?”

  • caroline@learningparade

    It disturbs me that so many children go to sleep at night watching DVDS. Surely when you're in bed resting, your brain activity is naturally being reduced to induce sleep? So watching DVDs in bed would defeat the purpose? Many parents think that watching TV helps their children develop vocabulary and social skills. But not in isolation.
    Sue Palmer (author of Toxic Childhood) once told me about a child whose parents were both deaf and dumb. He watched TV for 3 years but this didn't enable him to develop speech. Children need interaction - not distraction. Stories not DVDs at bedtime!!
    (Great post)

    Reply
    • Ian Newbold

      I agree Caroline. Putting a television and DVD player in a child's bedroom is a dangerous game. TV can be used positively, sitting with a child, engaging them in discussion, but not at bedtime. Reading is the future, or it certainly should be.

      Reply
  • mel butcher

    i still read to my 6 yr old son every night, quite often my 16 yr old will come in too, i read most of the book, but point out some sentences for the little one to read too, some he can manage easily, and others which involve unfamiliar words,if the words are not familiar to him, i try to make those sentences are funny or silly to give him a bit more of an incentive. he now loves going in the book shop and will ask to every time we are in town. he loves reading and is excelling at it in school.

    Reply
    • Ian Newbold

      That's brilliant. Thanks for sharing that. Hearing what a positive effect you are having on your child is a warming thing. My boy is five, and I hope us reading together goes on for a long, long time yet.

      Reply
  • Paula

    I find this really worrying, my kids are 8,5 and 3 and the bedtime story is an essential part of our nightime routine. Granted the 8yo would claim to prefer watching The Simpsons but he can generally be persuaded to join us at some point. There's a bigger issue here as well- who regulates the amount of electrical equipment is in their child's room and how much they can use it. I still insist that the eldest asks to use his DS so I can enforce some time limits, he grudgingly accepts this because it's how it always has been. I'm lucky that he still loves reading but not complacent about it.

    Reply
    • Ian Newbold

      Having a handle on the electronic stuff is important, as is the will to want to read to your children.

      Glad they love reading, and I wonder what part reading to them at night has had? Got to be a massive positive I reckon.

      Reply
      • Paula

        I'd say yes, definitely. It's an integral part of what we do, so it's normal and accepted. With boys especially it's so important to make it so, they can easily be put off the whole concept of reading. And because the eldest is such an avid reader, the younger 2 want to do it too....the avalanche effect. Fingers crossed it continues :)

        Reply
        • Ian Newbold

          Indeed, my boy would think it was odd if we didn't read, it would be like not brushing his teeth, even though I am sure he always find the former more pleasurable.

          Reply
  • Pam T~

    What ghastly figures. Really quite depressing to think of all those children not sharing books with the rest of the family.

    My children are 8 and 10 (boy and girl) and we still read together before bed. There was a slight pause in our habit a couple of years ago when the youngest learned to read, but none of us were ultimately happen with that situation and now we share the books they are assigned by their instructors. Sometimes dad reads. Most of the times I read, although frequently we just take turns, or even roles.

    And no, no TV or computer in their rooms.

    Reply
    • Ian Newbold

      Thanks for sharing, personally we are at a stage where our bedtime reading dynamic is changing, as my son's grasp of the written word improves. It is pleasing to read that it is a process that can continue after a child learns to read themselves.

      Reply
  • Book Chook

    I think Paula's point above is really important. She says "it's an integral part of what we do, so it's normal and accepted." Sometimes as parents we feel a bit silly reading aloud to a tiny baby, but starting young and reading every day does become a habit, one with amazing benefits - social, emotional, educational. I know I wasn't as dedicated as Mr Brozina (didn't you love the bit where he pulled her out of play practice to read to her at 17!), but it was rare to miss a day with our read-alouds.

    Reply
    • Ian Newbold

      Like I said in the post, I can see why people are embarrassed, but it really shouldn't kill the immense enjoyment, that both, parent and child, can glean from daily reads.

      Reply
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