Graphic: As survey finds more people are reading to their children at bedtime - we reveal your favourite book to read the children
16:49 29 January 2014
A survey has revealed more people are reading to their children at bedtime. Catherine Morris-Gretton finds out why sharing a story is so important and speaks to parents who are keen for their children to grow up with a love of literature.
Despite the pressures of modern life, more parents are taking time to read to their children at bedtime.
A survey conducted by Aquafresh Kids of more than 1,000 members of the website Netmums showed 70pc of parents are reading to their little ones more than five nights a week and half read stories to their children every night.
In comparison, only 37pc of today’s parents were read to at least five nights a week as a child and 29pc admit they were never read a bedtime story at all.
Dr BJ Epstein, specialist in children’s literature at UEA, welcomed the findings.
“Reading to children is so important – they want to connect with their parents and they can really foster a love of reading and a love of knowledge,” she said.
“Children’s literature opens up new worlds and new possibilities. Children become more empathetic, they learn more about other people and other perspectives on the world.
How often do you read to your children at bedtime?
Every night 78pc
Five or six nights a week 10pc
Three or four nights a week 8pc
One or two nights a week 2pc
Which of the books below is your favourite children’s bedtime read?
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy 24pc
Room on the Broom 22pc
The Tiger Who Came To Tea 15pc
The Very Hungry Caterpillar 13pc
Where’s Spot? 9pc
Where The Wild Things Are 9pc
Each Peach Pear Plum 4pc
The Snowman 2pc
Dear Zoo 2pc
The Jolly Postman 0pc
“They start realising ‘my friend isn’t so different, even if they are from a different race or religion’.”
Dr Epstein went on to explain how there were studies linking low literacy levels with criminal behaviour.
Some American states predict how many prison cells to build in the next 15 years by looking at how many children are currently reading. And figures quoted in Forbes magazine show 60pc of American inmates are illiterate, while 85pc of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.
If you are already reading bedtime stories with your child, then Dr Epstein’s advice is the more variety, the better. “What I think is really important is giving children a large range of stories to read,” she said.
“And don’t just stick to stories about people like you. Children are much more open to diversity than we give them credit for. Choose stories with two mothers or two fathers, stories about people of different races. And choose stories that deal with different emotions – don’t shy away from difficult subject matter. Characters might have lost a grandparent or a pet – these are things that children will experience and emotions they will feel as well.”
According to the survey, the bedtime story has been given a 21st century makeover by parents – with 11pc tweaking tales to make them shorter, 12pc basing the stories on their own lives and two per cent adding a touch of celebrity sparkle.
But beware cutting short the bedtime story, said Dr Epstein.
“Children whose parents change the stories sometimes resent their parents,” she said. “Some of my students have said they felt like they had been lied to when their parents didn’t read the whole story or changed details such as the ending or the gender of a character. I think parents need to watch out for that.”
Parents surveyed were in agreement about the importance of bedtime stories, with 64pc saying it helped them bond with their child, 74pc saying it relaxed their child before they drifted off to sleep and 56pc believing it stimulates their child’s creativity,
And according to Dr Epstein, you cannot start too soon.
“Babies need to hear language,” she said. “It helps them get used to how people talk, to the sound of your voice. Even before they are born, they are listening to your voice.”
Alex Murty, from Norwich, has an 18-month-old daughter called Elsa. He reads to her during the day rather than at bedtime. “We have read to Elsa since she was about three months old,” he said.
“She loves it – books are one of her favourite things. I think it’s good for her language and it’s a good learning tool.
“Her favourites at the moment are any books about Peppa Pig.”
Anna McNeil, from Norwich, reads to her eight-month-old son Dylan at bedtime and during the day if they are at home.
“A bedtime story is part of his routine,” she said.
“It’s a nice thing for him. He doesn’t know the story or understand the words but it’s calming for him and he relaxes. I think it is good for him to have books in his life and see the written word, not just screens all the time. Everything seems to be on screens now.
My parents read to me as a child and they buy books for Dylan – so there is an encouragement from them as well.”
Beth Boorman, from Norwich, has been reading to her 12-week-old daughter Rose since she was one month old.
“It’s part of her routine – she likes the images and it’s about hearing our voices,” she said.
“My husband reads to her and he loves doing it – he even does funny voices. I think part of it is about nostalgia from your own childhood, but the other part of it is finding out what’s new, from word of mouth.
“I was read to as a child and I am a teacher, so that has probably influenced me.