Christmas break is nearly here, and school-time routines fly out the window! That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a fantastic opportunity to shake things up and try something new — like reading nightly bedtime stories. We’ve all heard how important it is, but new research keeps piling on the reasons why. If Santa isn’t bringing a stack of books this year, it’s not too late to add a few to the list! Check out some of the benefits of reading bedtime stories to your kids:
Improve Language Skills
This article in Parents magazine reports: “Neural research shows that when parents and caregivers interact verbally with children—which includes reading to them—kids learn a great deal more than we ever thought possible,” says G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., chief of the child development and behavior branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD. Children who have been read to are better able to quickly master language, and then reading. There seems to be definite neurological differences between children who are read to and those who aren’t. The good news? After only eight weeks of reading aloud to them, the original group of poor readers showed electronic brain imaging that had changed to more closely resemble the group of good readers. Now that’s a quick turn-around! And every family can do it.
A More Powerful Brain
This article in a New York Times blog explains that reading to even very young children helps rewire their brain for processing a variety of information. As it turns out, listening to a story works the same part of the brain that activates for older children when they begin to read for themselves. Readers are also able to process and understand emotions better. Seeing a plot from a character’s point of view improves empathy and compassion. Start building that reading brain early!
Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Fight that trend by helping your children learn to focus. No matter what attention challenges your children may face, improvement is always possible. With daily practice, you’ll reap the rewards of better focus in other areas, too.
Ease Into Bedtime
Tired of bedtime arguments, and a list of requests that just won’t end: “Can I have a cookie?”, “Can I have a drink of water?”, “Can I watch more tv?”? It may take a couple of weeks to get into the habit, but the endless begging, pleading, and bartering will decrease. Children thrive on routines, even though they may resist them at first. Experiment with the length of books. One grandparent reports that when she notices the child’s eyelids drooping, she softens her voice and switches to a monotone until that little tiger drifts off.
Lower Stress For Your Child–And Yourself
Let’s not pretend we couldn’t use a little chill-out routine, ourselves. When you’ve been going a hundred miles an hour all day long, it can be hard to unwind when it’s bedtime. How many memes exist about a brain that won’t let us fall asleep? Having a bedtime ritual, and focusing on this one relaxing task will tell your poor, overwhelmed brain that it’s okay to switch into sleep mode. Try it for a couple of weeks.
During the school week, I see some students for more hours of the day than their family does. School, sports practices, meetings, and errands can take a huge bite out of the available hours of the week. Toss in video games and other electronics, and the time has slipped away. It’s important to have some quality, uninterrupted moments with your child each day. Knowing they’ll have your undivided attention at bedtime allows them to open up about the finer points of their own day. You’ll be making emotional deposits that they’ll desperately need for the weeks and years to come.
If you’re not currently reading to your children each night — it’s never too late to start. (Although reading to a sixteen-year-old might be challenging 🙂 Hey, even my teen students love this series!) Capture the last few days of 2017 and begin 2018 on a powerful, positive note. Are you already reading to your children? What have been your favorite books?