Reading bedtime stories

When should I start reading to my child is a common question that parents ask. The answer is easy. The sooner you begin, the greater the love for reading and the more they learn. How do you read to a baby? Easy! Buy books with simple pictures (by simple I mean the pictures must have very little detail. Cardboard baby books are perfect for this! Show the baby the picture and describe what you see. “Look at the doctor” (point to the doctor) he has a white coat on” (point to the coat)” and move to the next picture: “Look at the cow. A cow says moo!” and move to the next picture. Reading a long story with lots of words and few pictures¬†is boring and your baby will lose interest. You’ll know when your child is ready for longer stories and more detail.


Benefits of reading to/with your child:


1) First and foremost reading to your child is a daily opportunity to create a few minutes of

quality time spent together! This will be a time that your child looks forward to every day and

they will start asking for it. As part of a bedtime routine, it will also help them wind down after

a busy day;

2) Creates a love of books (which will eventually evolve into a love for reading). Young children

should be given the opportunity to play with books and be taught how to respect books.

Cardboard books are great for babies and toddlers until they are able to work with paper

pages in a careful and respectful manner;

3) Builds vocabulary. At first you are showing pictures and teaching your child the names of

objects. When you have progressed to reading actual stories it is important to explain words

that your child may not understand in a simple manner. It is very important to not only

describe a word once. So when you read the story you should explain the word. At the end of

the story you could discuss the word again and give your child the opportunity to tell you

what it means before explaining it again. Giving synonyms also work great for this purpose!

4) Enhances memory. Most parents will go through a phase of reading the same story night after

night after night. In our house we are currently stuck on ‘The three little pigs’. After hearing

the story a few times children will begin to remember the story and can help you ‘read’ it. You

could even ask your child to ‘read’ their version of it to you;

5) Improves comprehension. Ask questions while reading or after reading your story! The level

of difficulty will depend on the age of the child. “what colour was little red riding hoods’ coat?”

or “name 3 items that she had in her basket?”.¬† As your child’s listening and memory improves

the question can become a bit harder. This process is also very important when your child

starts reading on their own;

6) Creates the awareness that words that you say are related to symbols on a page. Especially

when you point to the words as you read them;

7) Children may begin to recognise sight words that you read often such as: and, the, a, an, I

8) They will become interested in reading the stories themselves. This is great for additional

reading when they go to school and will improve their reading and comprehension and

enhance their vocabulary.


Another important thing to do is discuss the pictures and ask your child what they think it going to happen. “I don’t know” is not allowed as an answer. Let them guess! Why? Because it encourages them to think, it teaches them to describe what they see, it helps with communication and once again to increase their vocab!


To excel at school children should be able to read fluently and with accuracy but more importantly they need to understand what they read. Children are finding it harder to read due to a variety or reasons. Many children read but have no idea what they are reading because they are so focused on decoding and making sense of the words that they are not paying any attention to the meaning of the words strung together. So ask questions!


REMEMBER: Children cannot learn for tests if they cannot read the work and they cannot remember the content if they do not understand what they are reading!


There are many books with short bedtime stories that take 5 to 10 minutes. If your child wants to read a longer story and you don’t really have the time, compromise and read half of it tonight and the other half tomorrow! Reading bedtime stories is not only for fun, it is an important part of growing up and has so much educational value. It is never too late to start!