Reading Bedtime Stories
Reading bedtime stories is a long‑held tradition across many cultures. It's part of a familiar routine for many families and usually includes a cosy combination of bath time, a change into pyjamas, teeth brushing and then at last: story time.
This precious, shared time between kids and their parents is much more than a snuggly bookend to the day. Scientists have found that reading to kids has other big benefits, like helping to build their listening, vocabulary, spelling and reading comprehension skills. On top of this, reading together with or to your child also goes a long way towards developing the overall foundational literacy skills that will hold them in good stead throughout their school life.
The key is to maximise this rare, shared quiet time at the end of the day by making it positive, fun and most of all enjoyable for both you and your child.
But at what age should you start reading bedtime stories to your child? And when exactly? Before their bath? Or right before they go to bed? Let's take a look at the positive benefits of bedtime stories and the best time to start your bedtime reading tradition with your little one.
You can click here to access our suggested bedtime stories below.
When should you start reading bedtime stories to your child?
It's never too early to start reading bedtime stories to your child, so don't be afraid to snuggle up with your little one and your favourite childhood read.
Babies love exploring books, whether it's grabbing at them to get a feel, looking at pictures, listening to your voice and the often sing‑song rhythms of nursery rhymes. Little ones also fans of repetition in books, and it's a great way for babies to learn sounds and words.
How do you know which book is right for your child's ability?
Finding the right bedtime story is key and makes it easy to show your child how fun books are when they're learning how to read. Sourcing books that are suitable for their ability is important, as you don't want to overwhelm your child with difficult books, nor bore them with a book that's too easy. This is where the five‑finger‑rule can help you get it right!
Black and white books are easier for young infants to see and identify colour, while soft fabric books are great for their little fingers to grab and squish. Board books are also wonderful for younger children and toddlers as well and being sturdy enough to hold up to the toughest little teethers and tumultuous toddlers around!
As your child grows you can progress to longer stories with less pictures and then chapter books, taking turns reading each page. Not only will your child enjoy the closeness with you and a cracking story, some books will inadvertently help them practice their phonics skills and rhyming books are great for honing phonemic awareness skills.
When is the best time to read a bedtime story?
Choosing the right time can be tricky. Try and pick a time that works best for you and your child, so that you're both able to relax and focus on story time together.
Many families like to read after all the other bedtime duties have been taken care of (i.e., after the bath, teeth brushing and pyjamas have been put on), so that it's the last thing they do before tucking their child into bed. For some children this works great, but if you've got a sleepy little one who can't keep their eyes open during story time, perhaps try reading before bath time when they're a little more alert.
Once you've found your sweet spot, make sure to stick to your routine and you'll have your very own bedtime story tradition in no time!
Benefits of reading bedtime stories
Now that you know when to start reading to your child and at precisely what time, let's explore why it's important to read bedtime stories with your little one.
From bonding and increasing reading skills to building an understanding of the world and nurturing a love for reading, stories can also be used as a vehicle for conversation. Children's bedtime stories carry a range of benefits for both children and their parents:
1. Promotes bonding
Reading to your child requires a certain amount of closeness. Many parents snuggle in tight with their little ones while reading a bedtime story, which helps to establish connection and allow for key bonding time.
Carving out some regular bedtime story reading time is a great way to not only nurture your one‑on‑one relationship with your little one, but it's a wonderful way to demonstrate just how fun reading can be! A positive outlook on reading has follow on affects for kids, building on their reading skills and helping them long‑term with their future academic success across all subjects.
If you're too exhausted by the end of the day, make the bedtime ritual easier by accessing read‑aloud books to enjoy with your little one.
2. Increases reading skills
Kids at all levels of the reading journey pick up so much when shared book reading is underway; from babies just starting out, to school children who are edging closer to being skilled readers, including:
- how to hold a book and turn its pages
- the inflections and tone of your voice when you read an exciting sentence or ask a question
- starting to recognise letters
- the structure of sentences and stories, how they start and stop and that a story has a beginning, middle and an end.
Reading a bedtime story (or two or three!) to your child each night will help to develop their vocabulary as well as their reading comprehension and fluency.
The more you read to your child the more they are able to improve upon all five components of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and reading comprehension.
Research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting (2017) shows just how invaluable shared reading can be. The abstract, “Early Reading Matters: Long‑term Impacts of Shared Bookreading with Infants and Toddlers on Language and Literacy Outcomes,” findings suggested reading with your child from an early age can boost their reading skills up to four years later, when it's time to start school.
Also, once kids reach school age, it's important to remember that it's never too late to start this routine. A bedtime story every night is a great way to help struggling readers. Making sure it's a lovely relaxed ritual at bedtime instead of a demanding homework task, can help take the pressure off anxious kids.
3. Helps build an understanding of the world
Kids' bedtime stories can open your child up to a world that is completely different to their own. Through stories they can learn about faraway places, real or imagined, thus helping them to develop new perspectives that are beyond their own.
Not only do books have this magical ability to transport kids, but they also help them develop empathy for people in different situations or places.
You can also focus on your child's interests and curiosity, helping them access books on topics they'd like to learn more about. Bond over a shared book about a country and its customs, or a time in history. Reading something they enjoy is a great way to make learning to listen and read fun!
4. Can be used as a platform for conversation
Taking the time to read a children's bedtime story each night can provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss different topics with your child. You can talk about the characters in the story and use it as a segue to ask them questions about how they would handle the situation or how it makes them feel.
It's also a fantastic way to explore tricky situations or particular emotions your child finds difficult to talk about. Shared reading time gives kids the space to open up and also to get an insight into how other people may be feeling.
Talking through the story is also a great way to improve children's reading comprehension. Chat about what you've read and ask questions about the story or if there were any unfamiliar words. According to the Simple View of reading, honing this very important step helps kids reach skilled reader level.
5. Nurtures a love for reading
Creating a bedtime story routine will help to create positive associations with reading. By establishing a safe and loving environment, your child will come to love story time and develop fond memories, making them more likely to continue reading for pleasure in the future.
Learn more about how to spark a love for reading by making it fun here.
Top bedtime story tips
Peter Gorski, MD, chair of the early childhood committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “To best confer reading's cognitive benefits, a child's experiences with books should be enjoyable. More than anything, you want him to associate reading with emotional warmth and fun.”
Recommended bedtime stories
All of the children's books below can be found in the ABC Reading Eggs library. Sign up for your free trial here and enjoy instant access to over 3000 kids' bedtime stories, making bedtime reading fun for years to come.
Bella Goes to Bed
It's time for bed, but Bella wants to play! This engaging book series follows the adventures of Bella the ginger kitten. She loves dress‑ups, making new friends and exploring the world. But at the end of the day, she wants to snuggle up at home. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)
Where is Bear?
It's been a busy day and Reggie is very sleepy. The only thing is, he can't find his favourite toy – Bear! This gorgeously illustrated series invites children into Reggie's world, promoting an interest in new experiences. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
You can find a range of Mother Goose stories in the ABC Reading Eggs Junior Library, perfect for toddlers! These classic stories are great for building rhythm and phonemic awareness, and the colourful pictures are a delight for young readers. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)
It's bedtime for Baby Bear. What's his routine before going to bed? Follow along with the beary adventurous bears. What will they get up to next? The series fosters an early enjoyment of reading and builds early reading skills in young children. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)
Five Little Penguins
Five little penguins waddling down the hill. One toppled over and took a spill! These rhyming picture books tell stories of animals, people and places, helping to build connections between books and everyday activities while developing phonemic awareness. (Find this book in Reading Eggs Junior)
Baby Koalas Bedtime
Baby Koala doesn't want to go to bed and gets up to a bit of mischief instead! Your child will love the colourful wildlife photographs accompanied by simple text and an easy‑to‑follow storyline. The repetition of sounds and actions encourage children to join in.
The Hare and the Tortoise
This timeless tale has been lovingly passed down through the generations. The speedy hare challenges the slow tortoise to a race. Who will win? Discover a range of classic children's stories in the Reading Eggs library.
River and Pebble want something special to put in their tree house. Follow them on their hunt and enjoy the detailed, dreamlike paintings that bring this journey to life. The questions at the end of the book are perfect for sparking conversation.
The Dancing Tree
Sprig has one night to choose her forever spot in the Fairy Forest. There she'll grow big, strong and magical. Where will her forever spot be? This wonderful series features full‑colour illustrations and short chapters that show young readers the importance of perseverance, courage and the value of being a good friend.
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