1. It’s never too early to start
Babies love books. You can absolutely read to your newborn baby, even though they're too little to understand what you're saying. The experience of snuggling up and listening to your voice can help them relax. And it's great for bonding between the both of you. And there’s no age you should stop reading together either! Keep bedtime stories going even once they start to read on their own, and your support can help develop a love of reading that will carry on into adulthood.
2. Keep it regular
When it comes to bedtime reading, having a routine can really help. You can be as flexible or structured as you like, but a regular nightly routine will signal to your child that it’s time to wind down and relax. A routine gives children consistency and reassurance and reading a story together is very comforting. Reading every day is also important as it will support your child’s language, literacy, and emotional development. BookTrust knows that children who read are happier, healthier, more empathetic, and more creative.
3. Get them ready for bed first
Try to get your child into their pyjamas with their teeth brushed before you start reading so they’re ready to drift off once you get to the end of the story. You can use the time you spend getting ready to talk about what you’re going to read together and what they think it will be about. That way they’ll be looking forward to the story and will know that it’s nearly time to settle down for sleep.
4. Choosing a bedtime story
The best book to read with your child is the one they want to read, whether that’s a classic novel, an interactive picture book, or even a football annual. When they’re enjoying the story, you’ll enjoy reading with them. If you’re reading to a baby, why not pick a bright and touchy-feely book that they can play with as you read. Books with rhyme and repetition are also brilliant for babies. Say the words a little more slowly than you usually talk to help your baby hear the sounds you're making. If they’re old enough to pick themselves, why not take them to the library or a bookshop to choose something? If you try out lots of different types of stories together you’ll soon find out what kinds you like, and you might be surprised by something new!
5. Make it cosy
Once you’ve decided on a book, snuggle up together and get as comfy as you can! If your child is old enough, sit close together and get them to hold the book themselves or turn the pages. Babies will find being close to you and hearing your voice relaxing, and older children will love having special one-on-one time where they can have a cuddle and unwind. Reading together is the perfect way to bond and spend quality time together away from other distractions. It’s also a great opportunity to get your child to open up and talk about the day and their feelings.
6. Have fun!
Just because it’s a bedtime story doesn’t mean you have to be really quiet. When you read with your child, try to make it fun and engaging – you could use actions and silly voices for the characters, or choose a funny story for you to laugh along to. Try not to feel self-conscious when you read, after all, it’s just you and your child and they’ll think you’re the greatest storyteller in the world! If you can make story time fun for both of you, it’ll be something your child looks forward to each day and before you know it you’ll have a lifelong reader on your hands.
7. It’s a special time for both of you
Shared reading has enormous benefits for your child, but it’s a really important time for you too. Reading with your child is a chance for you to take your mind off the pressures of the day and just focus on making lasting memories together. A bedtime story might only take ten minutes, but you’ll feel the benefits for much longer!
BookTrust is dedicated to getting children reading because they know that children who read are happier, healthier, more empathetic, and more creative. Find out more about why a love of reading matters at booktrust.org.uk