Published 3 years ago
Earlier this year, Bookroo had the pleasure of interviewing Susanna Leonard Hill, mother of five and author of 15 children’s books. Among her work are the well loved stories When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles and Can’t Sleep without Sheep, which again show just how much children stand to gain from bedtime reading.
The educational benefits of bedtime reading have been explored by researchers countless times. The Child Development Institute elaborates on how bedtime reading builds vocabulary; improves attention span; expands imagination; and helps develop logic skills necessary in many aspects of life. However, a lesser touted but equally important benefit of bedtime reading is its ability to give both children and adults a more restorative night’s rest.
The routine of spending time together before sleep to pore over a book can have great emotional benefits for both children and parents. This effect was aptly illustrated in The New York Times’ feature on a father and daughter who read together everyday for several years without fail. Kristen Brozina called the reading practice ‘The Streak’, and describes it as a way to build and keep a strong bond with her father, saying, “The Streak was stability when everything else was unstable. It was something I knew would always be there.”
This sense of stability and safety is something that parents should strive for when establishing nighttime reading routines. Reading together and building a conversation around a book is an important way to listen to each other’s perspectives and encourage children to confide in you. Dr. Peter Gorski of the American Academy of Pediatrics describes this ritual as a way for your child to associate reading with emotional warmth and fun.
As it turns out, reading aloud to children can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and give them the opportunity to open up to you about things that might be bothering them. Dr. Gorski goes on to explain how this can make your child feel comfortable enough to sleep better through the night. “Relax and just enjoy being with your child,” he advises. “Just think of what that close time you’re spending together will do for your own cortisol levels!”
The doctor has a point. While bedtime reading with your kids is unlikely to help you learn new vocabulary words, studies have shown how doing so can actually help adults calm down and prepare their bodies for sleep as well. By incorporating reading into your nightly winding-down ritual, you can lower your own stress levels and enjoy having more restorative sleep every evening.
For adults, sleep can take the backseat because of the many challenges we face during the day. However, doing so can significantly impact mental and physical health, while making us more susceptible to being irritable, even to children. Leesa dubs this phenomenon of moodiness as ‘slangry’, a portmanteau of ‘sleep-deprived’ and ‘angry’, and explains that lack of sleep can greatly affect the way a person’s mind and mood works. This is particularly devastating for parents, as studies have shown that it can actually prevent our minds from making positive memories to cherish with our children.
With bedtime reading having so many great benefits for you and your child’s sleep, there’s really no reason to skip the nightly ritual. Besides, there’s plenty within the books themselves to enjoy!
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