I Hate To Get Judgey, But How Hard Is It To Read Your Kids A Bedtime Story?

bedtime storiesParents, 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.

(Photo: Everett Collection/Shutterstock)

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  • d

    Judgmental. Judgmental. It’s a perfectly cromulent word, guys.

  • C.J.

    We had a bedtime routine where both my husband and I read each child a story and sang them a song. Now they don’t want the stories and only the younger wants the song but story time turned into something else. They both enjoy that time with each of us at bedtime so they use it as a chance to talk to us about anything they want to talk about. I am really glad we did story time when they were small.

  • Alikay

    I like how all you bloggers preface your articles with “I normally try not to judge BUT…” You ladies pretend to be so supportive of mothers but YOU are the ones keeping these cycles of judgement, animosity, and self righteousness moving!! You write these articles to pat yourselves on the back when you have no idea what other people are going through on a daily basis.

  • Julie

    Look, I’m with you on the importance of reading to our kids. I get that and I do it. But who are you to tell other parents that they should be embarrassed over their parenting decisions? I really think Mommyish’s slogan should be “Support all parents in their choices, unless we’re the one’s writing about it.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/katgautreaux Kat Gautreaux

    We don’t read my daughter bed time stories because we like her to go to bed, not prolong the event. That doesn’t mean we don’t read to her though… we read books to her throughout the day, on demand, often with multiple readings of the same book. Also, I hate recordable books — what is that bullshit?

    • CW

      Amen! I read to my kids every day, just not at bedtime. I don’t see why it matters WHEN a parent reads to their child, just that they are doing it on a regular basis.

    • Lawcat

      This is true. It doesn’t matter WHEN you are reading to your kid, so long as you ARE reading to them.

      I read 3 books to my son yesterday during the day, but didn’t read one at night. Guess I’m a “failing at a basic aspect of parenting.” (eye roll)

  • Katia

    It’s easy to read your kid a bunch of stories every night. If you only have one kid.
    Tell me I should be embarrassed if you know what it’s like with 3 kids.
    Also, nice sarcastic title! And how hard is it to proof read and spell basic English words correctly. Or not contradict yourself in a published article. Just wondering..

    I’m not saying bedtime stories aren’t important or that I never do them.

  • Ellie

    We tend to skip the bath before we’ll skip the books at bedtime. Such a great way to wind down and get dozy for sleep. We also read all different times of the day, but this is the time our boys really love to read. Even though it takes longer to choose the book than it does to read it. :)

  • Cat

    If you don’t like to get judgey, why are you writing for a blog that thrives and makes its money on the backs of perpetuating fake mommy arguments?

    Also, reading to your kids is BORING. Seriously, it made my brain want to DIE. I am so glad my kids are older than that.

  • Mandy Swanda

    I love reading to my kids at bedtime. Seriously, once I stopped rocking my daughter to sleep at two years old, at bedtime, we floundered. I didn’t know what to do. There was a lot of “sit down,” “lay down,” “relax!!!!!!!!!” coming from me. Once we added storytime to the routine, everything kind of clicked. I don’t need to tell her to relax, just sitting down to read the story does it :)

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