The BookTrust recently released a survey that says that a quarter of UK parents allow technology to read a story to their children before bed. This means voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, various apps for phone or tablet, voice notes and more. Yes, I also have no idea how you fit a bedtime book on your voice notes, but let’s not get waylaid with that.
In addition to the 26% who let Cortana tonelessly recount the Tiger Who Came to Tea, 65% of parents say they made do with sticking their children in front of YouTube, the TV and other forms of screen time instead of reading a book. Of those questioned, 49% said they intended to read a bedtime book to their children but only 28% did so, with excuses given including getting home too late and being ‘too busy’.
There is something really special about that time just before bed, when you can get congregate and read a story together. It’s a human experience that is about more than just the actual story at hand. It’s also about being in each other’s company, discussing what’s happening, laughing together and much more. Tech can only replace the very bare bones of the process of reading a book.
If you genuinely can’t make it home in time to read your kids a story at bedtime, that can’t be helped. But if you have got the time and you don’t currently do it, you should really try it out. Honestly, for me it’s one of my favourite bits of being a dad. To help you get started, here are five factors that make the perfect bedtime book:
I love the whole process of reading stories together, but I am keenly aware that bedtime is approaching. Both my kids have learnt they can try to put off the inevitable by choosing the longest stories possible. However, there is a limit to how long their concentration lasts when they are exhausted and the most wordy stories always seem to fizzle out into a chorus of yawns, tears and general agitation. Shorter stories are much better.
It Works For Adults
A great bedtime book needs to resonate with adults as well as children. I don’t mean it has to feature a whole load of gags about your workplace pension, but it does need to have some meat to it.
There are a load of absolute pieces of dross out there where someone has tried to cash in on a trend by writing 20 pages of nonsense about unicorns with no plot. Yes, your children might lap it up, but you will end up ‘accidentally’ losing it one night so you never have to suffer through it again.
For stories that treat kids like adults and adults like kids, in the best possible way, look out for anything by Michael Rosen, particularly Howler.
It Doesn’t Try to Do Too Much
The most annoying bedtime books are those with writing that runs round the page in different directions and contain annoying features like flaps that come out and flip down with half the text on them. The designer clearly thinks they are being clever, but it doesn’t make the experience any more fun. In fact, reading these is as physical a challenge as it is mental, which is not what you need when you are trying to calm everyone down ready for sleep.
The best bedtime books are simple and are all the more effective for it.
Illustrations are Everything
Moving parts and unconventional typing are irritating, but the design of the book is important. There is a reason that some illustrators can become as famous as authors. Beautiful, funny, striking pictures can add so much to a bedtime book, especially when your children can’t read read the words for themselves.
The work of Axel Scheffler (particularly with Julia Donaldson) and Quentin Blake, for instance, are absolutely iconic and you know that any book with their illustrations on the cover is bound to be a winner.
They Bear Repeating
An ideal bedtime book needs to stand up to repeated reading. If your kids love it, you will end up with it on the agenda every night for weeks, if not months. You have been warned.
What Else Makes the Perfect Bedtime Book?
Do you know any other factors that make the perfect bedtime book? Share them in the Comments section.