BY LISA JORDAN, FAMILY CHILD CARE PROVIDER/WRITER, WARREN
Then our oldest son was a young toddler, he did not go to bed with a favorite stuffed animal or a blanket. Instead, when we tucked him in, he clutched two or three of his favorite books. Having been in love with words for as long as I can remember, I enjoyed seeing our son love reading or being read to from a very young age.
One of the best memories I have of my childhood is listening to my mom read Bible stories and children’s stories to my brother, sister, and me. Naturally this was a love I wanted to instill into my own children.
Reading bedtime stories became a ritual from the time our boys were very young until they felt they were too old. After their baths, we’d tuck them into bed, their hair fragrant with baby shampoo and one child on either side of me with their cheeks pressed to my chest as I held the book open for both of them to see the pictures.
Parents or guardians do not need to be the only ones who read bedtime stories. Older children can strengthen their own literacy skills by reading to their younger siblings. Reading to your child endorses her early literacy development. Reading strengthens a child’s thinking and reasoning skills. Stories encourage language development and imagination. Ask your child to read the story to you. Even if she can’t read words, she can look at the pictures and tell what she imagines is going to happen.
Be sure to choose stories that are age-appropriate for your child. You wouldn’t want to read a book with too many words to a toddler for fear of losing her interest.
On the same note, elementary children need more than picture books. They enjoy stories with engaging plots. Be aware of your child’s fears. What may not bother them during the day could activate vivid imaginations at bedtime and cause nightmares. Soothing stories can cause your child to relax and lull him to sleep. Visit the library and allow your child to pick out a variety of books that interest them.
When planning bedtime reading, allow enough time so no one feels rushed. Begin the bedtime routine at least thirty to forty-five minutes before lights out. That gives your child time to transition from his day into bedtime. After playtime and a bath, allow your child to choose a story or two—consider a book limit or you could be reading until midnight. Curl up in your child’s bed, on the couch, in a soothing rocking chair with your child on your lap, or wherever everyone feels comfortable. Relax and snuggle with your child to read together.
As you read, take time to allow your child to explore the illustrations. Pause at each page and ask questions about what your child sees or thinks what will happen next. Ask open-ended questions—those that need to be answered with more than a yes or no. Use different voices for different characters. Soak in your child’s giggles. Allow this to be a bonding time for both of you.
Quality children’s literature can teach through positive messages. Use these stories as teaching tools to help develop positive behaviors or to work out situations your child may be going through. Ask your child how she feels about what happened to the characters. Ask what choices she would have made. Relate the story to her life, if possible. This lets her know you value her input and shows you care what is happening in her life right now.
Bedtime stories strengthen bonds between you and your child. After a hectic day, both of you need time to unwind. Even if you’re tired and don’t feel like reading, consider staying with the routine to help your child fall asleep easier.
If you haven’t started a bedtime story routine, begin today. You will be laying a solid foundation for her early learning development and help end her day on a joyful note. After all, what could be greater than spending quality time with your child?
Lisa Jordan is a family child care provider in Warren. She received her early childhood education degree from Clarion University in May 2009.