One of the simplest ways to help reinforce literacy skills in your child at an early age is to read them a bedtime story. You give them an advantage by expanding their understanding of reading and language.
A bedtime routine with stories builds a foundation of phonics, new vocabulary, and reading comprehension for children. Plus, your reading encourages excitement for reading.
We have read daily to our three kids from the time they were born until their decision to read on their own. The most amazing part of this process is seeing their growth. We have growth in their understanding of words, letters, and language, all without them realizing.
More specifically, books introduce kids to words and concepts, some of which are beyond normal everyday conversations you have with them. This jump-starts their ability to read and write in the future.
When you read aloud to your kids, sometimes they watch your mouth move and form. When they listen to the tone of your voice, this helps with diction. Even at an early age, words on the pages start to form as memorization, all helping to improve their cognitive skills and language.
How Soon Should You Start Reading Bedtime Stories?
For us, it started from day one. Babies can’t quite see at such a young age, but they begin to learn about the world around them with active listening. Listening to the tone of your voice and words you are using are all part of the learning process. Their brains actually make connections to sounds.
Starting a bedtime routine in their infancy has been a natural progression in our family.
This transition into a calm atmosphere with dim lights and stories signals to your babies that it’s the end of the day.
The Benefits of Bedtime Stories for the Whole Family
Reading bedtime stories creates a distraction-free period in your daily life.
Our youngest children are 5 and 2 years old. When it’s story time, they enjoy picking out their own books. Each child has their own bookshelf with age-appropriate books they can choose.
My husband and I also take turns reading books to the kids as a family. We choose one of the kids’ bedrooms to sit down in and all read together.
The reason why both of us read is:
- The kids have an opportunity to cuddle with one parent
- They hear words coming from each person
- Both parents are active in the bonding time
Another benefit is the possibility of questions. Older children tend to want to talk about the story, wanting to gain further understanding. This conversation helps with cognitive learning and comprehension.
Sometimes stories can trigger a memory. For example, our kids will begin to talk about something that happened in their day. At times, a funny word in the book will make them laugh. This time is well spent with giggles, as we help them learn each day about their world through books.
Also reading daily and conversations can give you opportunities as a parent. It can help you gauge and find areas of strength and weaknesses in your child’s literacy.
And, if your household is like ours, where one parent stays home and the other works outside the home, the working parent also gets to take part in the development of the children.
How to Make Time for Bedtime Stories
One of the most important things to know is that kids thrive on routines. They help with transitions, and comfort children about what is happening next.
We created and used a natural progressive bedtime routine.
Our schedule begins at 7 pm, which allows ample time for bedtime stories. This time is also a stress-reducing time. At around 7 pm, it’s time to take showers, and then we follow the B-word system.
Infants: Bath, Bottle, Book, Bed
Toddler/kids: Bath, Brush, Book, Bed
Following the four Bs is so easy. But the key part of this system is to begin this at a young age. Even if you haven’t, you can get into the routine. Repetition is key.
Start one day at a time, when it is best for your family. You may soon find your kids rushing or eager to pick out their choice of books and looking forward to reading time.
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How to Make Bedtime Stories Fun!
Some simple creativity can make bedtime stories fun for everyone. Here are a few tips we use:
- Read character parts in different funny voices
- Act out sounds or action words
- Use puppets or hand socks
- Create a reading nook with comfy pillows
- Snuggle in a favorite chair
- Use fun lights to turn on during reading time
- Get books that popup, or have a touch and feel parts
- Get books that come with picture projections to put on the wall or ceiling.
By creating an atmosphere of enthusiasm around reading bedtime stories, your children will grow up with a love for books and find joy in them. Also, you will create lasting memories.
How to Build Your Own Library of Books
There are some easy fun ways to start your own library:
- For new parents, add books to your baby registry
- Instead of gifts or toys at birthdays, ask for books
- Join a monthly book subscription box
- Find a free share library in your neighborhood
- Swap books monthly with friends
- Reward good behavior with books to a series you are reading or with fun stickers inside
Books make great gifts because they grow with your children and then can be passed on to others.
How to Read to Your Child When They Don’t Want to Sit Still
Some nights our 2-year-old won’t sit still for stories. When those nights happen, we don’t stop reading. Instead, we find ways to engage her attention. Here are some ways that have been successful for us:
- We ask her to find an object in the book as we read
- We ask her to act out parts for example (can you hop like a frog?).
Doing these kinds of easy tricks gets her naturally back into reading, but allows that energy to be channeled.
But even if your child is not fully sitting, keep reading, they are listening even if you think they are not. If your child is really having a hard time, maybe then a shorter book is needed that night.
How to Add Diversity to Bedtime Stories
Kids certainly fall in love with a certain book or books and want to repeat them over and over again. We read it as many times as they want, but variety is needed as well. So how do we combat this?
Some simple remedies to use:
- Read two books instead of one. Allow the favorite book to be read in addition to another book
- Pick a weekly theme and get your kids excited about what this week’s is going to be
- Surprise your kids with a brand-new book as a gift.
Reading daily to your child is one of the simplest ways to reinforce literacy. It helps make connections to words, improves memory, allows questioning, and exposes them to new vocabulary. This is a road dedicated to fostering a love for books, language, and learning – and lots of snuggles!
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