Why Bedtime Reading Matters

Siblings sharing a book at bedtime, image from examiner.com
Category: Bookbug

Bookbug Week 2015 is a great opportunity to celebrate how important and fun it is to share books with babies and children. 

If you’re a parent and feeling a bit out of practice, take some time to remind yourself why it’s worth getting back on track with bedtime reading and the different ways you can approach it. And if you’re encouraging bedtime reading with families, then think about what you might say to counter any hesitations about taking it up!

Learning to read can come much more easily if you’ve been immersed in books from early on and associate them with fun, love and enjoyment

Why bedtime reading matters

We’d all agree that being able to read is vital for every aspect of life. Learning to read can be tough for some children – but it can come much more easily if you’ve been immersed in books from early on and associate them with fun, love and enjoyment.

  • If you’re used to books then you’ll be familiar with the idea that printed words are for reading; you’ll understand what reading is about even if you can’t do it yet.
  • If you spend happy, cuddly, enjoyable times with books, then you’ll want to be able to do what the adults around you do – read.
  • If you spent time with books you know it’s something for you – it’s not just about what school wants you to do, it’s what you want to do.
  • Habit forming – if you read at least once every day, that’s a habit you’ll be developing for life.
  • If you choose your own books at bedtime and enjoy them, then you’ll be able to weather a few less exciting school reads because you know from experience that there’s more out there.


Why bedtime reading might not always happen and what you might do to help introduce it 

My baby’s too young

It's never too early to start reading with your little ones. You can read to the tiniest newborn (or to your baby bump). It’s about your soothing voice, a cuddle and making connections between what’s in the book and your baby. It’s a nice way to spend time paying attention to your baby.

These two films show what a lovely bonding experience reading with your baby can be:

A mum reads to a sleepy baby and she talks to the baby about the experiences in the book

A dad chats through a book with his lively, smiley baby

My child doesn’t like books; they’d rather watch a DVD

The key thing here is to try as many different books as you can. Liking a film doesn’t meant not liking books – you can like both. Try different books, books about things they like (e.g cars or boats), books with detailed pictures (like Where’s Wally), or story books that are a bit scary (like Where The Wild Things Are) to grab their attention. Keep trying and choosing a variety of books – there’s something out there for everyone.

I’m not a very good reader – I don’t want to pass on my dislike of reading

Don’t worry – just focus on enjoying sharing the books. Choose picture books with few words (such as You Choose or Hug) or books with a lot to look at (such as The Little Red Train series). Talk about the pictures and make up your own story as you go along or read the story as best you can. Sharing books isn’t all about the book – it’s about sharing time with someone you love. Choose books you want to share and enjoy or make up your own bedtime story! If you can’t think of a story, then tell the story of your day – what happened?

Just focus on enjoying sharing the books

I don’t have time

It might save you time. Sometimes bedtime can be stressful and littles ones don’t stay in bed when adults want them to. Bedtime routines, like sharing a book, can help with the rhthym and routine of going to sleep. Bedtime reading won’t guarantee sleep, but it can de-stress the bedtime process. It will just take a few minutes each day to help your little ones get into a routine. 

Ok, yes, sometimes you really might not have time

If you are able to share the bedtime reading routine with someone, go for it. Older siblings might enjoy bedtime reading, it can be quite a responsibility. If grandparents are around, they might enjoy a turn too.

I don’t have enough books

Reading the same books over and over again is one of the best things you can do – children learn about words and the ryhthm of language better that way. 

But explore new books for free at your local library – join today and start borrowing! There are no fines on children’s books. Don’t worry about damage – libraries expect children’s books to be well loved and to get battered.

I’m too tired

Then don’t get too comfy or you’ll be asleep too... That’s the danger of sharing books at bedtime. If your tiredness is stress-related then you’ll probably find sharing a funny book with your little one an ideal stress reliever.

Bedtime is hard enough without having to add books to the mix

Don’t worry, there is no perfect way to share books with your children. Just as long as you do share books when you can, it doesn’t have to be at bedtime.

Discover your next bedtime read with our themed book lists.

Sarah Burton

Sarah is the Early Years Programme Development Manager (Maternity cover).