Is this the beginning of the end for the bedtime story?

Do you read a bedtime story to your child?
Did you read one last night?

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A recent survey of 2000 parents of children aged 0-7 years,
by Littlewoods clothing and homeware retailer in Britain,
showed that only 64% of parents do.
It also said that only 13% read a story every night.
9% were too stressed to read one.

I do understand that figures can in fact be deceiving,
and the results misread,
but it would appear that many parents are no longer reading to their children.
Despite the fact that 94% remember being read to as children.

They also stated that over half of the parents who replied,
said that their children were more engaged by TV, electronic toys and games.
Amazingly 4% said their children owned no books at all.

This saddens me greatly.
One of the greatest “gifts” my parents gave me,
was the love of a story and reading.

I can remember sharing my mums lap with my brother,
so it must indeed be a very early memory.
She would tell us a story she made up.
It was the tale of a cunning fox and a little Jackal,
which always ended in tragedy.

If I sit still enough I can hear her still telling the story,
with her soft County Donegal, Irish accent.
“I’m so tired” said the fox as he swam across the stream,
with the wee jackal on his back,
“I think I’m just going to roll over”.

She always put particular emphasis in the “roll” so it was more “rooooooll over”.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/16119903@N07/5213486934/">Sandra Marek</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>
My brother and I would look up at my mum and shout,
“Oh no, please don’t”.
The level of success of the story directly related to how upset we were,
dragging out the anticipation of the inevitable over some time.
Eventually that sly old fox would roll over,
“and the poor wee jackal would be gone”.

As I grew older we regularly visited the local library,
and spent time wandering about choosing books.
I never remember a time I had nothing to read.

There were all the Enid Blyton books,
The Famous Five, Secret Seven, and Fabulous Four,
not to forget the Twins at St Clairs.

However the book I remember most vividly from my childhood,
was the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
I can still remember the surprise I got when I realised,
the previous nights reading had in fact,
only taken up a moment of time.
It was my first experience of real magic,
and the power of a book to take you somewhere you could not even dream of.

My youngest is now eleven,
and most nights we still read her a story.
We had well stopped reading to our other children by this age.
A while back I read The secret garden for her.
It was magical as I could see that in time to come,
that book for her was the equivalent,
of what The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was for me.
She spoke in wonder for days about the ending.

Reading to her has also opened up to me, small__9420696996
the wealth of magnificent books there are out there for children.
New authors and titles I’d never before read.
The books she may one day re read with her children.

Reading a bedtime story at night to my children,
has been about so much more than reading.
Lying beside them, snuggling up close,
sharing those last few moments of the day.
Watching them as they listen intently to the story,
and finally the inevitable, “Oh please mum, just one more chapter”.

Leaving them tucked up in bed,
with the characters still buzzing in their heads.
Hopefully storing up memories that will ensure,
that in their futures, they forever continue to make the effort,
to read to our next generation,
and instill in them a love of reading and stories,
just as my parents did.

How sad to imagine a future world without the magic of a Β bedtime story.

photo credit: Sandra Marek via photopin cc
photo credit: futurestreet via photopin cc

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35 thoughts on “Is this the beginning of the end for the bedtime story?

  1. One of the things I used to think about when I wanted to have kids was how I was going to read to them. And I remember getting into my bed with the two of them, one on each side, each of us reading until it was time for them to go to bed.

    1. Yes my bedtime story time has sometimes been a drag, especially if it’s a story I’m not enjoying, but as soon as I arrive up to the bedroom I love it.

  2. Fabulous post, Tric. I read to my kids every night until they decided to read for themselves: mission accomplished. I plead guilty to reading the the same stories I read when I was little – Bedknobs and Broomsticks, CS Lewis, Dahl..; and I bought “The secret Garden ” for Little My two weeks ago. πŸ™‚

  3. Oh no, we read every night unless it’s gotten to late for a story. Even the 10 year old enjoys a story still. If my wife is having trouble sleeping, I read her posts from this blog. Bwahahahahahaha!!

  4. Brilliant post. It’s such a shame some people don’t value this precious time, last thing at night. I read to my twins every night separately. They really need one-to-one time with each parent, as they spend much of the day competing with eachother for everything.
    It’s also the time when they’re likely to speak up about anything that’s bothering them. Long live story time!

    1. Oh wow you are very committed reading two stories. Well done. You’re right though it is a time for those little niggles in their life to come to light.

  5. We read to our children, and still occasionally even read to our eldest (13 now). They look forward to story time! I remember my grandparents reading to me more than my parents. Great post!

  6. What a lovely blog post – totally agree the bed time story is SO much more than the book – a chance for a cuddle, a chance to snuggle up, an intimate and shared moment. I hope to keep reading to mine for as long as possible

  7. I’m reading the Secret Garden to my two at the mo, not reading as much the last 2 months but will get back into it shortly. 2 years ago I read them the entire Harry Potter series to them in 4 months. My best memory is the evening I planned to have them in bed for 8 and it takes 90 min to read 2 chapters so I started at 6;15. it was nearly the end of the third book with about 5 chapters to go – they wouldn’t let me stop and I couldn’t either. I finished reading (hoarse) at 9:45! I had to read while eating my tea!
    I remember when I was teaching in the UK and there was a crazy percentage of households that have less than 5 books in the home. It must be like another world really.
    I’ve plans to read Philip Pullman’s trilogy this winter – I loved it, hope they do too

    1. Yes it is like re living our own magic of childhood. Our old books are one of the only things our children do not think are linked to the age of the dinosaur.

  8. Some of the funniest bedtime stories in our house happened when Dad was actually a bit too tired, but he (that’s me by the way) would try valiantly to read the story anyway. As the story progressed, the sense of each sentence would begin to diverge from that on the printed page, until being woken with a sharp dig in the ribs from one side or t’other – “Dad, wake up!” – there would come the realisation that the last paragraph of my “story” had its origins in the land of nod, and bore no resemblance at all to the printed page before us.
    Poor kids – at least I tried…

  9. i think this is wonderful and when parents ask me what to do with their kids over the summer for homework, i always say the same thing. just read to them and with them. never stop no matter how old they get.

  10. Sad statement on society. I recently read that part of the prison planning in the US is based upon projections that take into account how many grade schoolers know how to read.

  11. Oh those statistics make me so sad Tric!
    We read two stories every night, all together, one each for the boys (3 and 5), they pick their own from the shelf while Babygirl tries to grab the pages.
    They don’t consider themselves put to bed without a story. They have 100s of books between them, 5 years’ worth of presents.
    Not owning books at all I just can’t fathom. I often give them as baby gifts, so important.

    1. Yes I’m right there with you. This house has 22 years of children s books and so many I just can’t give away, as their well leafed often shabby pages bring me back. Enjoy creating your library. πŸ™‚

  12. Every night my little girls are with me I read A: to the little one on the top bunk while B: the bigger one reads to herself til the first is asleep. Now Miss six and three quarter year old is in the “I’m not tired and can never get to sleep’ phase so sometimes I read 3 more stories to her. If that doesn’t work I may give up, pull up a pillow and read my own book in their cosy room til they’re both asleep. Oy. Not the quickest nightly routine by any means. Not bedtime reading isn’t possible in my house!
    Nice to be back reading your blog Tric, I just resurrected mine :))

    1. Great, welcome back. You definitely believe in the bedtime story. I love your whole, if you can’t beat them join them, attitude. Nice to have you back again.

      1. Bedtime breakthrough! Miss 6 year old has been lamenting with drama for a whiel now – I don’t know how to get to sleep, I just can;t do it, I;m not tired, night time is so boring etc etc. The other night squashed in beside her and we shared reading a new book (real chapters, not many pictures, lots of fairies). Third night in a row, she’s asleep after 10-15 minutes. yay. And thanks for the welcome back – I just need to get writing again…

  13. Always read to all my sons, and loved rereading my own favourite stories from childhood to them. While I read to them on my lap when young, and often while they were sitting in bed when they were older, I also got books on CD for them to listen to while they planned Lego. For them all , they have fond memories of listening to those stories on CD, and talking amongst themselves about it. Even if a parent can not find time to read a long time, they can still gift their child the ability to simply listen to a good long story on CD. One final thought: My youngest is 7yr from his next brother. When he was 11, I recall read out loud to him during breakfast a 1909 book called LAD, a book with wonderful stories. His 2 brothers always made sure they were there to listen to it, before they had to hurry off to catch their bus to college. Such is the power of the tradition of reading to children out loud, and the gift of story.

    1. Oh I so related to your older children listening to past favourites. My older daughter hovered by the door for a few nights as we read a book she used to love. After a few days she just surrendered and came in and lay down too and listened. I wonder will books ever be a thing of the past?

      1. And it feels so wonderful when the older children to do that;) I don’t think ‘books’ will be a thing of the past. But, I do think I must accept that the manner of reading them may change. My lads quite often prefer to listen to a book. They tease me it is my ‘bad’ influence from reading to them! lol. But, I think they are simply audio learners. It is still a book, being read, just not by the ‘reader’. As evidence by social media, and blogging itself, we will never lose our love for words or stories or people’s thoughts. Books will always be here.

    1. My gang always enjoyed a story and as they got older loved me picking up the chapter from the night before.
      Stick with it, I’m sure your little ones will remember the times you did.

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