Editorial : Bedtime Stories

The importance of reading to children – for parents, as well as children

One of the sad results of the introduction of television is that fewer children now have a bedtime story read to them by their parents. Keith White’s column this month focuses on the important books about children which he has come across recently, and there does seem to be an ever-growing list of new titles both for adults and children. Despite all the electronic means of entertainment and communication, books are retaining their place and people are still reading a lot. The question is : how do children best start to enjoy reading for themselves?

Gervaise Phinn argues that the bedtime story is a crucial step in the process. He always has a terse and witty way of putting things, and his view is that there would be no need for the reading time in schools to be compulsory if parents had already interested children through bedtime stories.

Bedtime stories are important because:

–           parents and children can read them together, providing individual attention, helping bonding and often creating happy childhood memories,
–           bedtime story-telling offers a chance for children to get to know the excellent range of books for children now available,
–           children can learn about feelings and other people’s experiences through stories,
–           stories can help children’s imaginations develop by creating other worlds outside their personal experience,
–           stories help children to absorb knowledge, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes in response to questions,
–           the story-telling process is a good way for a child to settle down at night and prepare for sleep,
–           if a parent has reading difficulties, s/he can learn surreptitiously by starting with books for toddlers.

The last point may seem strange, as most parents who read to their children find no problem with reading, but it is established lore that the best indicator of academic success is support and encouragement at home. Parents who have struggled with schooling will have a harder battle in providing the right educational environment for their children. They may not be able to assist with algebra or French later on, but they certainly can help at the beginning by reading simple stories, and learning with their children may open new doors for them.

In any case, for all of us, as we see the next generations come along, it gives us opportunities to rethink and re-interpret our own childhoods, and to make sense of our own lives from a different standpoint. What better way is there than by sharing the stories and poems we enjoyed as children? Even if you know what happened when Tigger ate the thistles, you can get new insights. Doesn’t he remind you of someone you know?

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