Tuesday 20 August 2019

The benefits of reading bedtime stories

As well as helping children relax, reading them a bedtime story boosts their learning and improves bonding with parents. Lisa Salmon finds out more.

Research shows that reading books makes children happier than screen time
Research shows that reading books makes children happier than screen time

Lisa Salmon

Finding the time to read a bedtime story to a child has huge benefits - both for the child and the person doing the reading.

Not only does it encourage children to relax but it can become an important bonding experience.

On average, six out of ten parents read to their children every night.

"Reading a regular bedtime story to children is a simple activity that encourages children to enjoy reading and gets them into good reading habits that will set them up for the future," says Judith Parke from the National Literacy Trust (NLT).

"When parents encourage their children to read at home, it can make a big difference to their wellbeing and how successful they are at school, and beyond."

"With hectic day and evening schedules, there's the constant irresistible lure of the tablet, which pulls family members into their isolated technological bubbles," adds child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson.

"Set aside a few minutes to read a short story to, or with, your child, and then [have] a quick chat about what they liked about the story, and what they felt when listening to it.

"That small effort will help boost your child's sense of wellbeing, bring you closer together, and add another warm and nurturing experience to family life."

Here, are six reasons why reading before bed is so beneficial...

1. It relaxes children and improves wellbeing

The NLT has found children who enjoy reading are three times more likely to have good mental wellbeing than children who don't enjoy it.

Parke points out that kids love to snuggle up with a book at bedtime, and research shows that seven in 10 children say bed is their favourite place to read. Plus, "reading stories at night makes for a calm bedtime," Parke notes.

2. It helps children learn

Reading aloud to children stimulates their imagination, helps them learn, and develops their listening and language skills by exposing them to a range of vocabulary they may not be familiar with, says The Book People. This is hugely beneficial to children's progression at school as it helps develop their concentration, memory, listening and imagination in a fun and creative way. Research shows a direct correlation with children who enjoy reading and writing (80%) and those that do better in language and literacy subjects.

The NLT says reading with your child for as little as 10 minutes a day can significantly boost how well they do at school, and Parke stresses: "Reading with your child gets them to enjoy reading, and children who enjoy reading do better at school. Reading for pleasure can also contribute to positive social outcomes and help with making friends."

3. It boosts parent-child bonding

The research found more than half of parents (60%) use books as a way to get their children to open up to them, to find out how they're feeling and spark conversations. While 54% of parents believe setting time aside to read to their children at bedtime brings them closer together and is vital for their bonding time.

4. It makes children happier than screen time

Many parents believe it's important to encourage children to switch off from the digital world and enjoy books instead, and The Book People says its research shows 90% of children are happiest when reading and writing, rather than watching their favourite cartoon, or playing the latest computer games.

5. It encourages independent reading

When you read bedtime stories with your child, it makes them more likely to read by themselves too, often sparking a lifelong love of books. "Bedtime is the perfect opportunity to get your child reading regularly," says Parke.

6. It inspires children

The power of reading allows children to transport their minds to faraway fictional worlds, and live the lives of characters in their imagination. It can also spark inspiration, and encourage them to create stories of their own.

PA Media

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