Reading your child stories is a wonderful experience and not just for the child. It is a chance to connect with your child in a way that is difficult to do during the busy day.
Educators and Speech Pathologists tell us that reading books with your children is one of the best ways to help your child develop literacy skills. So why is an article on bedtime stories relevant to an Occupational Therapy practice?
A Special Connection
Well, quite simply, that special time you spend reading a book with your child, helps in so many more ways than just literacy. Reading your child stories is a wonderful experience and not just for the child. It is a special connection that you can have at that time. It is a really intimate and warm experience you have with your child. A time when nothing is distracting either of you.
It is a time when you can be comfortable with each other and you, as a parent, can tune into how your child is feeling. And don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t know what is going on for you either. They may not know all the details of what you are wrestling with in your daily life, but they will be aware of how you are feeling in general. When you are tuned into each other like this and when you can turn your focus to your child, it is an opportunity for your child to relax and be themselves and let you help them.
Let’s think about the child’s sensory experience. They are calm, comfortable, and secure. If they like the feel of a particular toy or blanket, they can have that with them. There is limited noise going on for them. If heavy pressure is a sensation they find calming, then they will really enjoy hugs. It is a happy place they can share with you.
Into this place you can introduce, not only literacy, but a whole range of other things. You can draw attention to shapes in books, you can talk about the pictures and the story. It is important that this time remains a comfortable safe and secure place. You can help your child to develop in a number of ways just by drawing their attention to things and asking questions.
Your child can learn about the world through the story. “How do you think the horse is feeling?” “Why won’t the bunny go with his friends”. Exploring the way characters act in stories is a great way to help your child learn to talk about their own feelings. They also learn about how to process what other people might be feeling.
Parents can put on silly voices for different characters in the book. This is fun! Children love it too.
Smaller children may not follow along with a story but they will still love story time. They will love the time with mum or dad and you can help them to identify shapes and details in the pictures. You might try to find triangles in a picture or ask “Where is the teddy bear?”. They can learn to turn pages, learn where the beginning and the end of the book are and how to take care of books.
Preparing for Sleep
Of course, story time is a part of a child’s routine that helps them to wind down before going to sleep and it works well. Make sure that you read to your child at other times of the day also.
You don’t need to have lots of expensive books. Children love reading the same books over and over again. And don’t overlook your local library! It has thousands of different books and you can get them for free. You can experiment with different types of books and work out exactly what gets your child excited.
Not Just the Little Ones
When I did a search for a good image for bedtime stories, I noticed that the children in the pictures were all preschool age or younger. It is important to read to children as long as they enjoy it. You can read to them when they are teenagers if you like!
Release Your Inner Actor
Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy story time yourself. It is a special time for parents. Release your inner actor! You can put on all the silly voices and make sound effects and what-ever you like. Most of the time you child will hang on your every word even if you wouldn’t stand any chance of getting into NIDA.