Bedtime is when children really long to be with parents. What better way to calm them down or make them feel safe than a wonderful narrative?
But most electronic-era parents do not know what to read to their child or how to narrate a simple tale. To set the ball rolling, cuddle your child. The next thing to do would be to turn off all the bright lights in the room and settle down comfortably on the bed. Now turn on the small clip-on night lamp and start reading.
Here are seven ideas to get you going.
1. Your child’s favourite book
Every child has at least one book that he would have gone over again and again. Pick that book as your first bedtime read. Go through the book with your child page by page. Read aloud with expressions. You can ask your child questions like what is it that he likes about the book or which character in the book he likes the most. Be prepared to read the same book over and over every night if your child is especially fond of the story! In no time, you will find your preschooler narrating the story word by word without any prompting!
2. Your favourite book as a child
Introduce your child to your favourite childhood book or character. Read the story out loud and tell your child about the memories that reading the story brings back to you. Your child may or may not take to it but it will help her get a peek into your childhood and help both of you bond better.
3. Books that inspire
The time before falling asleep is a wonderful time to introduce your child to new ideas or values. It could be something you would like him to follow or learn. Pick books that weave values or ideas into a story form and read them aloud. For example, if your child is learning the English alphabet, reinforce with a book that includes the 26 letters. If your child is struggling with potty training, pick a book that deals with a similar storyline. Divert your child’s attention towards the character whose qualities you would like him to focus on, without sounding preachy.
4. Sing-along stories, rhymes and poems
The bedtime story session is not just about reading stories. Include familiar rhymes, poems and sing-along stories for a diverse experience. You can narrate the story in your own words as you sing the rhyme. For example – ‘Baa baa black sheep’ can be sung after you tell your little one about a boy who asked a sheep for some wool. Make sure you don’t make the session too lively, as it may disrupt the much-needed calm before bedtime. Finish off with a soothing lullaby if your story session has fired up your child’s imagination.
5. Interactive books
A plethora of interactive books are available in the market – ‘lift-the-flap’ books, books you can smell, books you can feel and even talking books. Introduce these books to your child during the daytime and read them at night if your child has taken a liking to them. These books and stories usually excite kids into action but also make a fun and entertaining bedtime read.
There may be times when you have no reading material at hand. What do you do then? Make your own story spins. Pick a character and start weaving stories around it. It could be something as simple as day-to-day activities or something totally adventurous. You can even get your child to spin her own story. Suggest a storyline and ask your child to make up the rest of the story, or create your own story, with your child adding to it in-between. You can also record or jot down the good stories that you come up with together. To surprise your child, you can put it in a book form with some quirky illustrations!
7. Sequence stories
If you are telling a long story, stop midway, especially in the most interesting bit! Watch with glee as your child begs you for what happens next and eagerly waits for bedtime to come the next day! Long stories could make interesting miniseries and mega serials.
The positive aspects of reading to your child or narrating bedtime stories are many. As you keep this routine, you will find your child blossoming into a kindergartener who loves to read extensively and narrates with eloquence.
Anitha Bennett is a freelance author who has written books for children from preschool to preteen levels. She also conducts workshops for parents, teachers and children.