Bedtime storybooks: the importance of reading at bedtime

November 30, 2020 7 mins read
Bedtime storybooks: the importance of reading at bedtime

Some of our fondest childhood memories are those of being tucked into bed by a parent with a good book and disappearing into a world of words. Listening to bedtime stories read out loud as we drifted into dreamland really made the best nights of sleep. (Wouldn’t you agree?)

In an age where screens are taking up our precious age-old bedtime routines, reading to your child before bed might be the best sleep advice you’ll read this year. In this article, we will explore why it is so important to read to your kids before bedtime and how long you should be reading to them for optimal sleep.

Plus, we’ve worked out how many days it will take to read your favorite books out loud, from spending a few weeks with Harry Potter, to a weekend escape with The Little Prince. Take a look!

How long should you read to your child before bed?

Some parents read to their children for over an hour each night, while others say that 5 minutes is enough. It really depends on your child: their age, bedtime, wind-down routine, and ability to fall asleep.

Some nights it can feel like a marathon to get your child to bed, and if they’re falling asleep before they’re in their pyjamas, a bedtime story might not be on the cards.

If they’re struggling to settle, five minutes might do the trick to lull them into dreamland. If they’re excited or showing signs of sleep anxiety, a 15-30 minute read may not be enough, and you could find yourself turning the pages for over an hour. (If this becomes the norm, try to slot in extra time for reading so that you don’t keep them up too late).

It’s important to remember that the benefits of a bedtime story (apart from your bonding sessions and the developmental bonuses) is to get your child into a relaxed and happy mood before slipping into sleep.

How long will it take to read your child’s favorite book out loud?

Book Total word count Total reading time at 130 WPM Total days at 5 minutes per day Total days at 15 minutes per day Total days at 1 hour per day
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling 76,944 words 9 hours and 51 minutes 118 39 10
Charlotte’s Web – E.B White 31,938 words 4 hours and 5 minutes 49 16 4
Matilda – Roald Dahl 40,009 words 5 hours and 7 minutes 61 20 5
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis 38,421 words 4 hours and 55 minutes 59 19 5
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl 30,644 words 3 hours and 55 minutes 47 16 4
Madeline – Ludwig Bemelmans 849 words 6 Minutes 1 0 0
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle 65,182 words 8 hours and 21 minutes 100 33 8
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 16,534 words 2 hours and 7 minutes 25 8 2
The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter 975 words 7.5 Minutes 1 0 0
The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein 621 words 4.8 Minutes 1 0 0
Fantastic Mr Fox – Roald Dahl 9,567 words 1 hour and 13 minutes 15 5 1
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne 22,671 words 2 hours and 54 minutes 35 12 3
The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams 3,877 words 30 Minutes 6 2 0
James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl 23,843 words 3 hours and 3 minutes 37 12 3
The BFG – Roald Dahl 37,568 words 4 hours and 49 minutes 58 13 5
Because of Winn Dixie – Kate DiCamillo 22,123 words 2 hours and 50 minutes 34 11 3
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett 80,398 words 10 hours and 18 minutes 124 41 10
Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh 57,648 words 7 hours and 23 minutes 87 30 7
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien 95,356 words 12 hours and 13 minutes 147 49 12
Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson 32,888 words 4 hours and 13 minutes 51 17 4

6 Benefits of reading to your child before bed

Bedtime reading is not only a ritual that can encourage kids to look forward to bed (because who wouldn’t want a golden ticket to a chocolate factory?). It also has numerous cognitive development benefits that, intertwined with good quality sleep, can set up your child for a very bright future. (And a much more relaxed bedtime routine.)

In the immortal words of Grandpa from The Princess Bride, “When I was your age, television was called books.”

Here are 6 reasons to put down the remote and crack open a good-old-fashioned book.

1. Develops concentration skills.

Learning to sit still and listen is a lot more complicated than watching a TV show before bed (not forgetting how the blue light of TV can stimulate your child’s brain and keep them awake). Focusing on your words helps their brain build new connections and strengthens their ability to retain information.

2. Helps them unwind.

Just like we as adults have busy brains before bed, it’s not any different for kids. They’re continually absorbing information as they develop which can keep them awake and make it hard to settle down. Having a parent close by, distracting them with imaginary worlds, helps soothe and relax their bodies and minds, allowing sleep to come naturally.

3. Encourages reading as a skill.

Reading to your child at night encourages them to take the leap and read themselves when they get older. They’re able to associate reading as a treasured experience and will adopt the routine. Getting them to re-read books you’ve read before can help increase their vocabulary and language skills. And because they already know what happens in the book, this helps build their confidence.

4. Builds a healthy imagination.

Reading inspires creative thinking. By reading about interesting characters, adopting character voices and describing fantasy lands, your child recreates these images in their mind to bring the story to life.

5. Teaches life lessons.

Children’s books have a wonderful way of melting moral lessons into simple storylines. When you read to your child, you’re letting the characters of the stories teach the meaning of right and wrong, and we’re pretty sure your child would much rather be inspired by their favorite character than a boring adult.

6. Allows for quality bonding time.

Reading builds wonderful memories that you and your child will cherish. Having the opportunity to be with your child as you both escape into a new world together can help you top-up their love bank.

Our top tips for bedtime reading

We all have our own quirks when it comes to narrating our favorite stories, but trying these tips can help turn this into a long-standing bedtime tradition. (And keep your child’s attention span at the ready.)

  • Stick to reading times. Younger kids have shorter attention spans so gauge their attention and keep your reading time short.
  • Make it fun. Use those voices, and keep your energy high.
  • Read books for their age-group. Overly complicated storylines will hurt your child’s development and enthusiasm for reading as they will get bored.
  • Start young. It’s never too early to start reading to your babe; this helps boosts brain activity and can fast-track social and emotional recognition.
  • Use word cues. Run your finger down the page as you read to show your child how the sounds match the letters you are reading.
  • Make it routine. Even just 5 minutes before bed is enough to get into a wind-down routine and make them look forward to bedtime.
  • Be interactive. Stop to answer questions and take time to explain meanings. This can help your child with expressing themselves.
  • Choose a book together. As your child gets older, they will come to learn what they like to read.
  • Connect the story to real life. It’s always a good idea to take scenarios in books and show your child how they match to areas in her life or lessons she’s learned.
  • Stick to a reading pace. The average time to read out loud is around 130 words per minute. For more complicated books, try slowing it down even more to help them take it all in.

These days, bedtime reading is being replaced by screen time (or simply a lack of time to wind down properly). But while you may think this simple act of bonding can be sealed with a goodnight kiss, reading before bed is the foundation on which to build your child’s healthy sleeping habits.

So next time you’re in a rush to say sweet dreams, take a moment to read a few sentences and to help them (and you) forge a long-standing healthy relationship with stories, and sleep.