How Stobhill Primary inspired a love of bedtime stories

The power of a bedtime story is not to be underestimated. I still remember my favourite one: The Great Pig Escape by Linda Moller, where some wily pigs avoid being sold at market and instead set off on a journey to find happiness. I remember my least favourite too (Charlotte’s Web, which has too much death for me).

With the Big Bedtime Read, Stobhill Primary School have recognised the transformative power of bedtime reading. The beautifully simple scheme, where the school has supported parents to read to their children at bedtime, has changed the lives of families by strengthening parents’ bond with their children and engendering a love of books. Stobhill wanted to help parents instill a night time routine based around bedtime stories, to help their children settle down to bed and draw them in to some great books, and the scheme has generated a huge appetite for reading in its participants as well as helping them in their learning.

The school wanted to start small. Headteacher Maureen McDonald and nursery teacher Zoe Orr began working with one family, giving them a pack of picture books to take away every week and read with their children at bedtime. They also gave the parents a card to fill out, indicating the nights on which they had managed to read with their children. As the project grew, more families were slowly brought on board. The school worked with Midlothian's education support officer Chris Saddler, who also involved families from the Hawthorn Child and Family Centre. 

One of the meetings of the parents group
Each week the parents would come in for discussion and support, and of course to receive a new pack of books. As the weeks went on the parents’ confidence began to grow, to the point where they were supporting each other with strategies and sharing experiences.

The difference in their children’s lives has been remarkable. One mum reported that her 3 year old son “used to go to bed at eight and be up and down and up and down until about 10, but now, after his bedtime story, he goes straight to sleep.” Another told the school that her four children had gravitated away from the television at night and “they now tell me when it’s time for a story.”

The school were keen to record any helpful data, and have been keeping records of the number of bedtime reads children have taken part in. They have also been keeping note of parents’ evaluations, which have shown universal improvements in parents’ confidence and their children’s experiences not only of reading but school in general.

After the first incarnation of the project had ended, the group came together to give suggestions as to what could happen next. There were calls for non-fiction to be included in the book packs, and for there to be supported visits to the library. The existing group has continued and the project now encompasses 30 parents, with plans to increase participation throughout the authority.

At Scottish Book Trust we believe that reading can change lives, and this project is a ringing endorsement of how a love of reading has far-reaching benefits. As headteacher Maureen McDonald mentioned at the recent Scottish Learning Festival, parents have had varying experiences of school and reading, and a project like this can help show them that books can and should be a part of their family’s life. Just try and keep them away from Charlotte’s Web, is all I ask.