• Melanie Notaras

The importance of bedtime stories

The best part of my day is story time – in bed, snuggled up with my kids under the blankets with a book (or if it's picture books, six). I used to put the baby on my lap and a toddler under each arm, with the book spread out in front of us. Now the youngest is too tall to sit in my lap to let me still see the book, so we sit three on the trundle bed (one on each side of me) and the fourth lying on the bunk bed above, looking over my shoulder.

What makes a good bedtime book? First it has to be a printed book, not an e-book! Nothing beats printed books read aloud, which concentrates the mind and eye on the story. Kids can trace their fingers over the pictures and words, learning through the tactile feel of a book. Two, it’s probably better to avoid scary books (or at least the scary parts for bedtime reading) unless you want a terrified child when the lights go out! And thirdly it has to be a book that both parent and child enjoy – because if the child likes it you’re going to read it over and over and OVER again.

Picture books that contain rhyming text make a wonderful bedtime ‘story’, and - even better - if you can find a book of traditional children’s rhymes you can combine reading with lullabies! Favourite rhyming books in our house have included Each Peach Pear Plum (Janet & Alan Ahlberg) and Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Nursery Rhymes (Hilda Boswell) when they were young; and recently my 11 year old loved All Right, Vegemite! (June Factor).

But don’t feel limited to stories and novels. For years my sons loved reading Guinness World Records and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not before bed. They loved picking the weirdest bits for me to read aloud so they could watch me be grossed out! Maze books or '1000 things to find' books have been a lot of fun too.

The classic (and often the best) bedtime stories are ones that count down to bed, loved by children up until the age of about eight. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight (Jane Yolan), Cowboy Baby (Sue Heap), Baby Bunny’s Book of Bedtime Dreams (Ronne Randall) and The Dream Pillow (Mitra Modarressi) have been some of our favourites. I haven’t written a bedtime story yet, but I think 'counting down' is a wonderful format and in a pile of picture book bedtime stories, I always read this type last as the cue to sleep.

Bedtime stories should be an intrinsic part of the night time routine. It’s a fun way to slowly settle and relax, ready for sleep. The warmth, the snuggling is a special time for parents and children to bond, experiencing stories together with children learning the way they love best - through the voices of their parents. About 15-20 minutes for little kids each night, and 30 minutes for older ones. It’s a great way to develop the reading habit, which sets children up for educational success and a lifetime of joy.

Some recommended bedtime stories for kids:

0-4: Each Peach Pear Plum (Janet & Allen Arlberg), any alphabet or counting book, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight (Jane Yolan), Cowboy Baby (Sue Heap), Baby Bunny’s Book of Bedtime Dreams (Ronne Randall), The Dream Pillow (Mitra Modarressi).

5-8: Zac Power series (H.I. Larry), Billy B Brown series (Sally Rippin), Go Girl series (Perry, Badger, McAuley & Kalkipsakis).

9-12: Nevermoor (Jessica Townsend), Snow & Rose (Emily Winfield Martin), All the Wrong Questions series (Lemony Snicket), The Snow Merchant (Sam Gayton), and of course the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

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