Parents, I try to be supportive of all our hard work. I know we’re all doing the best we can to raise happy, healthy children. I also know that come the end of the day, after you’ve made and cleaned up dinner, after you’ve supervised bath time, after you’ve yelled at your children to clean up the playroom approximately 3,234,543,567,345 times, all you want to do is pull their covers over them and be done with the day. You want to open up the DVR and lose yourself in last week’s Good Wife. Believe me, I understand. But before you grab that remote, please just read your kids a book.
Nobody dislikes bedtime stories. I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet who is going to argue against children’s books. It’s really easy to advocate reading to children, because who could possibly say that’s a bad idea? We all know that reading to our kids before bed is wonderful and magical and the stuff Hallmark cards are made of. It’s warm, gushy, family goodness. So 100% of parents are reading to their kids every night, right?
Wrong. We’re not. In the UK, one in six mothers and fathers admit that they never read to their kids before bed. One third of parents only do it once a week. Don’t get cocky if you’re here in the States. Only 55% of children aged 3 – 5 in the US are read to everyday.
I could throw around a whole bunch of statistics as to why reading to children is so important. I wouldn’t be telling you anything Reading Rainbow didn’t say to a catchier tune.
Instead, I want to talk about why parents are failing at this most basic aspect of parenting. I don’t think it’s a conscious choice to say that reading to your kids isn’t important. We all know the truth. I think parents get tired or overwhelmed. By the end of the day, we’re all exhausted. We don’t want one more responsibility. And when you’re dealing with a pre-schooler, you don’t want one more fight over which book to read and if they’re paying attention and if you’re going to read one book or twenty. With all the stress and emotional depletion around bedtime, no wonder the story ceases to become a priority.
Listen, I’ve been there. I’ve had those nights. Your child spends too long in the bathtub. Then they throw a fit because their favorite pajamas are in the laundry. All the parent wants is to finish off this night without a meltdown. Who thinks about a book at that point? I’ve been that mom skipping the story for the sake of my sanity.
After those evenings, I always feel guilty. My daughter is in bed and I sit down feeling angry with myself for skipping a bedtime step that I know is important and worthwhile. After those nights, I need a kick in the butt to remind me that bedtime stories aren’t something to rush through. And they shouldn’t be the first thing on the chopping block when an evening gets rough.
Just like I needed to remind myself, I just hope we can remind other parents. Bedtime stories are important. They’re easy to forget when a night gets chaotic, but they’re still so necessary for young children. And the best part about this really important thing is that reading a bedtime story is really easy. It’s the easiest thing you can do to help your child’s educational prospects. So let’s all stop overlooking the bedtime story. Let’s stop getting distracted and tired. Let’s all be committed, every night, to reading to our kids.
Those statistics aren’t just scary, they’re embarrassing. Parents should be a little embarrassed. We all need to be working to turn those stats around, and it starts with being committed to bedtime stories every night in your own home.