Parents are constantly told “read to your child at bedtime.” But, more than just making it a habit or doing it because we’re “supposed to,” it’s important to understand the crucial benefits that reading at bedtime provides to both your child’s healthy sleep, and his whole life:
- Reading is part of a consistent, proper bedtime routine that will help your child fall asleep more easily: Ok, ok, you know I had to start with that one! I am a sleep consultant, after all! But, it’s true! Children love predictability and thrive in familiar, comfortable environments where they feel safe and understand what is coming next. A great bedtime routine can involve a bath, PJs, stories, and snuggling in bed to hear those stories. I suggest aiming to start and end the bedtime routine at around the same time each day to further instill consistency and predictability, all of which will help your child drift off to sleep more easily each night.
- Cuddle time! As hard as it may be to believe during those epic and inevitable toddler meltdowns, your child longs to be with you, all… the… time. You are the centre of her universe, and every moment that she gets to spend with you is gold to her. Taking the time to enjoy books together at the end of a long and stressful day (remember, toddlers have stressful days too!) allows you the chance to snuggle, bond, and reconnect.
- Reading builds your child’s vocabulary: Take advantage of having your child’s undivided attention at story time to help enhance his inner dictionary. Books – even children’s books – contain a much wider and more diverse set of words than those adults generally use when speaking to preschoolers, and can help your child to both learn new words and to begin to understand proper grammar and sentence structures.
- Reading cultivates your child’s imagination: Much more than television shows and computer games, reading encourages your child to use his imagination to determine what might really be happening in the story you are reading. “Mom, why do you think Goldilocks went into the woods? Do you think she was looking for the tooth fairy?!”
- Reading teaches important lessons: Use reading as a time to talk to your child about what is happening in each story, why it is happening, and what we can learn from it. Morals can be found in all corners of kids’ books, from very clear lessons like those found in An Awesome Book of Thanks, to less obvious messages that you may pull out of stories and emphasize to your child (“Wow, can you believe Goldilocks went into the woods all by herself?! We should always ask a grown-up to go with us, shouldn’t we?!” – P.S. Can you tell my kiddo is into Goldilocks?)
- Reading begets reading: Books and stories help children to learn about the world and discover their place in it – that’s a big job! Hence the importance of fostering a love of reading in children from a very early age. Reading teaches speech, communication, and logical thinking skills – it is a vital necessity. Engaging in bedtime books and storytelling with children at a young age fosters a love for reading early on, and will encourage them to continue with this passion throughout their lives.
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