Magic moments: reading before bedtime

With one simple lifestyle tweak, your child can become a better learner and a healthier person.  Your child will build vocabulary, attention span, and vicarious life experience.  Your child will develop healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime.  The secret?  Reading before bedtime!

Reading before bedtime used to be the standard, but now it’s the exception.  In the classroom, I can tell who reads before bedtime each night: the kids who are wide-awake for school and above grade level in reading.

My experience is that all teachers require students to read for at least half an hour each day.  Finding quiet time to read can be difficult for kids, as well as for their parents.  The busy moments of the day between when parents return home from work, dinner time, bath time, and preparing for tomorrow leaves little time for other activities.  Few people can concentrate on reading during the hustle and bustle of early evening.

Right before bedtime is a terrific time to read.   In addition to the obvious benefit of increasing reading skills, reading in bed provides health benefits.  Reading lulls children to sleep, whereas a flickering computer or TV screen keeps them awake.  Reading is a calm, quiet activity that lets children quiet their minds and prepare for slumber.  Reading in bed can be an important relationship-building time: sharing a bedtime story with a parent or sibling is a powerful bonding experience.

I recommend that parents declare a certain time for children to be in bed.  For example, setting 8:00 as the time to be in bed works well for children in primary grades, who need at least 10 hours of sleep a night.  For them, lights out might be 8:30 on a school night.

Here’s a twist that confers a huge benefit to 5th and 6th graders: tell them they can stay up as late as they want as long as they are reading in bed.  No TV.   No games.  In bed.  Reading. 

This suggestion helps older kids feel empowered and in control of their lives.  The great thing is that it doesn’t matter what your child reads at bedtime.  Books, comic books, magazines, instructions for video games—any printed word builds reading skills.  Reading aloud to a younger sibling builds important skills, too.  The important thing is to get your child to read before falling asleep. 

If your child shares a bedroom with a younger sibling, reading in bed might not be practical.  Instead, you could give your child a quiet corner of the house designated for nighttime reading, with a pillow and a blanket to add a touch of soothing warmth.  I loved to read in the bathtub while I was growing up.  I was always ready to sleep after a warm reading bath!

An extra benefit for parents:  When your child is happily reading before bedtime, you’ll have more quiet time in your life, too.

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Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Dec 1, 2009


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