Bring Back the Bedtime Story

Hmm, you may not have been aware that it even needed bringing back. I wasn’t, but according to a study out this week, only 1 in 5 parents read their children a bedtime story each night. Really? I was quite shocked. It’s never occurred to me not to read to them at bedtime, and both of mine have had bedtime stories since they were babies.

I know I’ve written before about my thoughts and feelings on reading to my children and the impact that that can have. I supported Save the Children’s Born to Read and Read On Get On campaigns, and I’d say my first papery love was books and I want to do all that I can to foster that love within my children, too. I’m not in the majority, though, it seems….

Here are a few of the facts from the study:

15 per cent said they read to their children only once every two months
In 60 days, there is only one day where there is time to read a five minute tale? I do know life can be busy, but that’s a lot of time to struggle to find a few minutes.

Three quarters of women said it was the most stressful activity of their day
Huh? What an easy life they must lead!

17 per cent admitted they’d rather put their child in front of the television than read them a book.
My kids like the TV, too, as do I. But there’s no way a bedtime story ever gets substituted by a TV show. It’s not the same thing, they are not interchangeable.

A third of parents prefer socialising with their friends to reading with their children.*
I have no words.

bedtime storiesAnd yet, ‘As many as 65 per cent of those questioned said they wished they had more time for bedtime stories‘. That’s a lot of people wishing and hoping for more time. Then make the time. Yes, I make it sound so simple, don’t I? I kind of do fall into that ‘then just do it’ category with this one, to be honest. It takes just a few minutes a day. And if they can’t commit to that every day at first, make it every other day, it’s still an improvement, isn’t it? If there’s a lack of confidence, then there can be practice, and I’m pretty certain the kids won’t be worrying about it anyway, they’ll just be enjoying the story. Words for Life is a great website, provided by the National Literacy Trust, that gives ideas of key milestones, suggested activities and tips for reading.

I believe that one of the most valuable gifts that I can give to my children is reading to them. It helps them hugely educationally, sets them up with a cheap and ever-lasting hobby for life, and it’s simply a lovely activity to share. The Husband and I take it in turns to read to each child every night, and sometimes, we all have a story together, too. We get to explore other worlds with each other, go off on intrepid adventures, giggle over silliness and smile at happy endings. Whether it be reading familiar old favourites that the kids like to recite with me, or the excitement of a brand new tale, bedtime stories are always enjoyed here.

Young children who are read to have a greater vocabulary, and phonological and letter awareness than those who are not. This not only sets them up well for school and the beginning of their reading life, but it is also an indicator that they will have more enthusiasm for reading and learning throughout their schooling. Children who read well by 11 do better at school, get better exam results and do better in the workplace – they’re also best placed to give their own children the best start in life. (Read On Get On)

I don’t know what stops people from doing this, and I know everyone’s lives are different. I don’t judge parents (*well, OK, maybe I judge the socialising third for that comment above) I just ask, surely they can fit one story in, just one more time than they normally would this week? Five minutes and the start of a new habit, a new moment with a child. If it’s a road to regular reading, they won’t only be doing them a huge favour by improving their future literacy and academic acumen, they’ll also be creating precious moments to treasure with their children, too. It’s kind of win win, isn’t it?

It’s a fundamental #BringBackPaper, isn’t it? Please get those bedtime stories being read again and enjoy that paper together.


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50 thoughts on “Bring Back the Bedtime Story”

  1. I saw this too and was really saddened by it. We’ve been reading to H since he was first born every night at bedtime. He has 3 books before bed and always does (unless he’s happened to pass out early after a tiring day.) we alternate each night as we both love reading to him. We’ve both made time for it through working full time and commuting so I don’t see that working is an excuse frankly! It takes 10-15 minutes! Xxx

  2. Wow that is a pretty shocking figure I have to admit. Bedtime stories are just part of our night routine although the balance is shifting as charlie is now starting to read them to me!!
    I can’t imagine not having it as its lovely way to settle down before bed. The girls love looking at books more than I anticipated so we are now trying to introduce a story before bed but they love the same Mr tumble picture book more than anything!
    My Mom always used to read me a chapter of a book before bed and they’re some of my most treasured memories x

    1. I was really surprised. I knew not everyone did it, but I didn’t expect to be in the minority. Reading with little ones is so special x

  3. Gosh, really. That surprises me too. Like you, we’ve always read at bedtime. My 8 year old now shares bedtime reading, but I always read her a little each night before she continues herself. We’re reading Pollyanna right now-quite hard to read aloud but I’m enjoying it 🙂

    1. I love that we’ve moved onto chapter books now with Boo, though I do like flitting back to the picture books with Little Man. Keeps it all fresh! x

  4. Ok I am going to sound really awful here but whilst I do read to AJ at bedtime and other times, there have been nights I just want him to go to bed and be done with it – I’m tired, he’s tired, and sometimes reading a book drags the whole thing out and he is more likely to muck about and not go to sleep. I think that would put me in the ‘I don’t read to him every night’ bracket. The majority of the time reading a book makes bedtimes much easier and I know it sounds bad, and I am sort of shocked that 80% of people don’t – but I can sort of get it too. I think people can fall out of love with spending time with their kids at bedtime, especially if it’s been a stressful day and all you want is for them to go to sleep so I think it’s a cycle that’s easy to get sucked into if you feel you are constantly stressed out through the day, day after day. Before you know it you’re not reading to them at bedtime at all. I hope you get what I mean. I do think people should read to their kids because above all else, it’s lovely. But I can see how the fraction of people who actually do every single night is so low, too.

    1. I do know what you mean after having a stressful day, I just want to get mine into bed, too, but it’ll still always be with that story. And you know, the story-time takes the stress away, for me anyway, and I do notice that my girl always chooses a particularly cuddly, loving tale if she’s knows that she’s been winding me up! Means I leave her to go to sleep de-stressed again!

      1. Aww that is lovely and yes I agree it can help the harder bed times. I just keep thinking of single parents or those with very tough home lives that just can’t bring themselves to do it, for whatever reason, and somehow statistics like that might just make them feel worse about it? I dunno. I suppose we (and our children) are very lucky that reading is a priority and a passion. And I do agree it’s something we should all try to do if we can xx

        1. Yes, though I still think 4 out of 5 people is high, even allowing for some problems. And 65% of people are saying they want this to change, so I’m hoping they can. This is something that people can change, and the difference it makes to their children’s future is significant. So it’s not about making people feel bad, it’s simply asking people to take a few minutes and read some stories.

          1. Oh gosh, not at all! You make valid points, I just believe that it’s important to change the habits and read as the impact is huge. I’m pretty passionate about it!! xx

  5. reading stories to my children at bedtime is my favourite time of day. Even though my girls are quite capable of reading themselves, and they often do for a while after I’ve left them (until lights out) I still enjoy reading to them. I can choose older books which we read over several nights and I’m just as excited as them to find out what happens next. If I can’t read to them for whatever reason then Daddy does. I also read to the Little Man at his bedtime and he’s just learning to read so we take it in turns and I get to feel all proud and fuzzy inside as he reads new words every time. I feel sorry for those who don’t read to their kids for whatever reason, they are really missing out and so are the kids.

    1. Oh, I’m loving doing that now with Boo, taking turns, it is lovely. They are missing out, that’s how I feel, too, and it is a shame for their kids.

  6. I would be really interested to read this study. Do you have a link?

    Bedtime stories have been an integral part of our routine since our daughter was four months old. It’s such an enjoyable part of the day when all the stresses can be forgotten. Having it as part of the routine from such a young age means it is natural behaviour for all of us. However it’s not too late to start a story routine if you haven’t already 🙂

    1. Yep, just tweeted them to you! It definitely allows us to leave behind the stresses of the day, too. I agree that by starting it early it becomes an integral part of the day, but it can never be too late. Thank you.

  7. Wow, I’m stunned! reading to our little bear at bedtime (indeed anytime) is my favourite time of the day. I could write a lengthy comment Jocelyn but to be honest, you’ve said it all really. Read, read, read to and with your children! Come ON!…

  8. Good grief, those are some sad statistics. I read to both my boys and we loved it. My older son became a competent reader quite young and loved reading his own books but my younger son loved his bedtime story right up to the end of primary school. Recently we have been having a bit of a book clear out to make space for more books and we have loved peeking back through toddler and young children’s books. I have to admit too that whilst space may be a bit lacking I have kept a few books back as I simply could not bear to say goodbye to them.

    PS – could I have the link too please, Jocleyn @EcoGitesLenault

  9. I don’t read to my children every day. I don’t and have never read them a bedtime story. That’s not to say that I would never do it mind, but since the day we brought our girls home from hospital we’ve always had a bedtime routine with them which consists of cuddles, milk and then they fall asleep in our arms. When they’re asleep we put them in their beds. They sleep well. I read to my children every now and then when they show an interest in reading. It’s not something I make them sit through if they don’t want to. I play with them all day. Doing puzzles, practising their writing skills (they love doing this), playing shop with them, baking with them, playing hide and seek with them and going to the park with them. I love reading and from an early age have always read. My parents never read me a bedtime story, but I read books almost every day of my childhood and still do now.

  10. Whoa! I’m astonished. I read to my son everyday without fail. My daughter is still quite small but will be introducing a bedtime story for her very soon. My son has so many books (I blame the book people). I honestly cannot get over this. For me, it’s a fundamental part of parenting! I know I sound judgy, but reading is so important.

  11. Wow! This STUNS me! How sad! I mean the statistic of one in 5 not reading their kids a bedtime story. I do understand that the bedtime routine is the most stressful time of the day so is it that more than specifically reading a story for that stat? But I’m going to share this on my page because I’d love to see how many of my friends don’t do this!

  12. This has made me sad but I know it is true, my husband works in a Primary School in a deprived area and he said he hates how many of them don’t even have books at home. They will let them sit on an xbox rather than read them a story and that to me is just heart breaking. I read to all my boys all the time but especially at bedtime. We do struggle with the twins, I’ll admit, so I do try to read more to them in the day but when they are older and can sit on the bed I hope they’ll be just as excited by the bedtime story as Lucas is. I remember both my parents reading to me and it was always the time I would talk to my mum if something was on my mind. It is so important!! Brilliant post Jocelyn xx

    1. Yes, it is sad. My mum was a TA until recently and she says she could see the kids who had books and stories so clearly, compared to those who didn’t. I can imagine it’s hard with the twins at the moment, but I’m sure it’ll settle into a routine when they’re a little older. Thanks, Hayley x

  13. who did they ask?! We read almost every night, and the nights we don’t read are because he’s just plain tired. Those nights I make up a story while I sit in the dark with him. Poor kids who don’t get a story!

    Incidentally, have you heard of the baby steps to literacy programme? They are looking for participants with children under 28 months, and they’re particularly interested in people who don’t read to their kids to help with their research.

    1. My thoughts, too! Boo likes made up stories, too, which are always fun!

      No, I hadn’t, so thanks for sharing that here x

  14. These statistics are terrifying. Most days my girls get two books- one of their choosing and one of mine- but there are times when we are all cranky and I have so much to do, so I am constantly looking at my watch, trimming some of the story as I read, and making deals that see me read less and them more. But goodness, this makes me want to read more, and more often. I can’t do it for the poor children whose parents make once every 60 days, but I can do it for mine and hopefully they will change the world because of it.

    1. It’s scary, isn’t it, and very sad. With my daughter now in reception class, I can already see the huge help that reading has been to her with her learning, and she adores her books. My son loves his bedtime stories, too, so hoping to give him a great start as well.

  15. I am gobsmacked. I can’t believe the numbers are so low, that’s really sad. I find it quite a stressful time because I have three and they all want a story at the same time (but joint stories rarely work as they want different books and usually start playing around!) but once I’m settled with each one, reading, I love it and would never skip it. Great post, Jocelyn

    1. Ah yes, I can imagine that could be stressful. Luckily, on the rare occasion I do bedtime solo here, Boo’s patient enough with her little brother to just go with his choice! Thanks, Jess x

  16. I really am shocked by this. I have read to my son since he was weeks old and continue to do so. We must go through at least 3 stories a day minimum but some days he will want to constantly read. I must admit that the bedtime story is usually just one book as we are all so wiped out by then – but I give it as much gusto as I can.

    I worked with children in schools a few years ago on the ‘Right to Read’ project and was astonished by the statistics around what literacy problems can do to the path a child takes.

    1. Oh yes, it makes such a big difference, doesn’t it? Reading underpins all other learning, so it’s a skill and a passion to encourage as much as we can. Thanks for sharing

  17. Wow that is shocking and actually pretty depressing isn’t it? We have read to Monkey since he was tiny and already read to LM. Monkey loves books and reading and LM enjoys being read to as well. I just cant understand why anyone wouldn’t read a bedtime story at least and parents who read a story once every couple of months is bonkers! Fab post lovely xx

  18. I’m so shocked by those figures! We have always done bed time story for the girls since we started a bed time routine they love it and I now know the gruffalo off by heart got to be worth it right! Haha

  19. Technically I’m one of the 80%… I love books, the house is full of books, and we read loads together (and apart) but some nights I really don’t feel like speaking, so they’ll read to themselves (youngest can’t actually read that well, but will make her own stories from the pictures in both picture books and illustrated chapter books) so I couldn’t honestly answer a question that said *every* night with a yes. *Most* nights (or days) but not every single one. But there are always books in our day, even without me reading aloud 😉

  20. Wow, those are some pretty shocking figures. I love reading with my baby – in fact I think children’s books were one of the first things I bought when I found out I was pregnant. I can’t believe some only read to their kids every two months!

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