Making books a bedtime routine

Category: Parents

My children are book obsessed, the second you sit down you can guarantee you'll be handed a book to read to them. We have piles of books; every room has at least a couple lying around with the favourites sitting in the bedroom waiting to be read for the 100th time. Not bad for a 2 year old and a 1 year old. And you know what? I love it, but not entirely for the reasons you are thinking. Sure it's great for their learning and education, but from an entirely selfish point of view, it means that every evening I know I will get some quality time cuddled up with them to read a bedtime story. 20 golden minutes where they actually sit still and forget about their striving for independence. Where I can release my inner child and put on funny accents while my children look on transfixed. Who wouldn't enjoy that?

As a working dad, I treasure those moments. They never make up for being away all day but they certainly help. It's also a time I protect fiercely; I'd rather take a 9pm meeting than a 6pm one so that I don't miss out on story time. With my son now being that little bit older we've started doing bedtime with both parents and both children, it's really fun having that short time all together.

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But before you can get to this stage you have to make books part of your life, so that your children grow up expecting there to be books in the house. I always found it a challenge to get motivated to read a book to a 9 month old, but it is definitely all being absorbed.

For us the key was making books part of the bedtime routine. It's perfect for creating a calm environment before they sleep and it means that you read at least one book to them every day. If it's part of your daily routine it becomes easy to do and before long they'll be asking you for 'just one more, daddy'.

Variety is also important. By trying lots of different authors and styles of books, you'll gradually converge on a few favourites and your child will get to know the styles and stories they like. That's important of course, but perhaps sometimes not as important as your own enjoyment. I can't be the only parent to have 'lost' a book their child loves, but that you just can't stand reading? Most books featuring a children’s TV character fit into that category for me.

However, we wouldn't be without at least a dozen Shirley Hughes and Janet and Allan Ahlberg books. They were some of my favourite authors as a child and thankfully both of my children love them too. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact I enjoy reading them, and that must have an effect on how I read them and the energy I put into it. Whatever it is, there is always much excitement when we get a new Alfie book in the house!

So while I may have partly selfish reasons for wanting my children to love books, there can only be good things about creating this passion in them. It's clear the impact it has on their language skills and development, and I have no doubt that my eldest will be reading in some form before she goes to school.

Benjamin Tipping

Benjamin lives with his family in South West England. He runs the popular blog Mutterings of a Fool where he likes to blog about food, running and reading with his children.