Why you should read bedtime stories…
In every family documentary I am invited to capture, the day ends with bedtime stories. I love it. It is the most magical time of day. It’s when the trials and tribulations of family life, and the hyper excitement of being photographed all day, get shelved for just a short window, whilst all is focused on love, enjoyment, warmth and imagination. The scaffolding of these magic moments is the stories themselves, and time and again the same ones come up (which were already classics when I was little and which I know by heart):
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar – By Eric Carle
- Winnie The Pooh – By A.A. Milne
- Bear Called Paddington – By Michael Bond
I am not going into the scientifically discovered powers of this nighttime routine (language skills, reading preparedness, comprehension and logic etc). As a family photographer I am much more interested in the parent-child bonding than the child’s brain development. Obviously.
Most bedtime routines go something like this:
- Leave the dinner table and run around with siblings screaming in the ecstasy that only comes pre-bedtime
- Take a bath or shower (not every single night)
- Brush teeth (oh dear)
- Go to individual room or pile up in one bed and wait for Mom and Dad to come, read, and have some snuggle time
Reading bedtime stories is so much more than, well, reading a story.
You get and give lots of cuddles. It’s a great time for bonding with your child and perfect to wind down after bath and brushing teeth. It’s often the calmest and most quiet part of the day and a great opportunity for individual time where the child gets a parent’s undivided attention. Reading aloud creates family connections. Perhaps it’s an inside joke based on something in a book that you both (or all) found amusing or a quote that becomes a standard in your family’s vocabulary. It may just be the warm memories of snuggling up together enjoying a good story. Whatever it is, it brings you closer together. Experts suggest that parents continue the tradition even into the teenage years. Maybe teens won’t want to snuggle, but they still enjoy some shoulder-to-shoulder time with a parent. Reading provides an opportunity to relax and enjoy a shared experience together.
Often a bedtime read sets the stage for conversation and shared confidences that may not have occurred otherwise. You can choose a book that speaks to an issue in your child’s or family life, which makes it so much easier to engage the child in a conversation. This is also a great time to hear the opinions of your child, and for them to hear yours. You can nurture a simple conversation with your child whilst explaining your expectations on their behavior. At times it can be difficult to explain your expectations, however, a story brings these expectations and explanations to life in the eyes of a child.
Bedtime stories establish a daily routine. Same time, same place. Different book (sometimes). What’s not to love about a trusted routine you can look forward to on an otherwise hectic day.
I loved bedtime stories for all of the above reasons. I never liked scary stuff (still don’t like it :-)) so I was never keen on fairy tales. My absolute favorite was Pippi Longstocking but I also loved hunting stories my Dad would read to me (my Dad was always on story duty). Being a hunter himself, he had a huge curated library of vintage hunting books and as much as I disliked the musty smell of the old books, I loved the stories of mountains, dogs, cabins, log fires and picnic dinners. I equally loved real life stories about travel, dogs and my quirky extended family and my Dad was a gifted narrator. We would squeeze into my small bed (he was 2 mtr/6’5″ tall) and we never grew tired of our favorite stories. My Dad passed away a long time ago, I am so glad I have those memories.
I love capturing bedtime stories for my families…
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