There is something very special about reading to your child at bedtime! Studies show that bedtime reading encourages nurturing relationships – and that this boosts brain development. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about reading before bed.
Why is reading at bedtime so important?
Bedtime is a great opportunity to bond with your child and enjoy quality time together before sleep. It’s often the only quiet time of day without any distractions. Reading before bed is also important for building a positive sleep routine. The more relaxed a child is before bed, the better they sleep and the more rested they feel the following day. Winding down at the end of the day with a book helps build a positive association with sleep – and reading – as they become associated with togetherness and relaxation.
How long should we read for?
Ten to twenty minutes is a good amount of time for reading at bedtime, although this will depend on the age of your child and how long they take to relax. The important thing is to get settled together and then stop before they get too tired.
What should I read?
As you are aiming for a calming experience, choose something restful – perhaps a story that takes place at night or includes lullabies.
For very young children, board books are great to enjoy at bedtime as well as during the day.
For children aged two to five years old, nursery rhymes and poems can work as they are short and fun to read aloud. Picture books are also perfect for this age group as they are filled with lovely artwork to look at and reflect on.
For older children, make sure to read something that aligns with their reading level and that interests them.
There’s also nothing wrong with reading and re-reading favourite books time and time again. This can help build a child’s confidence as they learn the story and begin to recognise words through repetition.
Do children learn from being read to at bedtime?
Yes! Children follow the words and sentences on the page and begin to recognise them over time. Reading greatly expands a child’s vocabulary and literacy skills, which in turn help their writing skills and comprehension. Reading also helps children build concentration as they must focus on the words and the images. Asking children questions about the pictures as well as the content of the story further improves their communication, reflection, and storytelling skills.
How can I make bedtime reading fun?
You can help make bedtime reading fun by letting them choose which book to read or swap to a different book if they find it too difficult or unengaging. Reading shorter stories at bedtime can help keep reading fun, as can using funny voices and making sounds! When you are looking to buy new books for bedtime, look out for books that are especially imaginative, magical or engaging – stories that your child will look forward to. Another way of keeping bedtime reading fun is to allow a small amount of time after to talk about what you read.
Can bedtime reading increase well-being?
When children read at bedtime in a patient, soothing environment it can greatly reduce stress levels. This is because it helps them switch off from their day and calm their mind. It also creates a secure feeling of being loved and supported.
When should I stop reading to my child at bedtime?
You don’t have to! You can carry on reading to your children even after they’ve learned to read. They will carry on listening to the words and increasing their vocabulary if you begin to choose books that would be a little too difficult for them to read on their own. For older kids who like reading alone, you could slowly add in some reading time together each week – or simply read your own book next to them to enjoy being together.