Bedtime Stories

Whether we’re tired, it’s late, or someone has stomped up the stairs and slammed the door in a very bad mood, every night I read to each of my kids. Even when my daughter melts down because she can’t get the toothpaste on or my son gets a second wind and bounces on his bed like a super ball on a linoleum floor, it’s just our ritual.

Often it is the part of our busy day I look forward to most, one on one. For ten to twenty minutes, it’s just the two of us, curled up and lost in a story. Sometimes I read longer, wanting to see what happens next just as much as my child does.

This has always been our bedtime routine, and I plan to do it as long as they will let me. Many years ago I read that it’s important to read to your children long after they know how to read themselves. High school I think. It sounds crazy, but even at that age, hearing someone read with passion benefits them.

If I read to them, they want me to go on and on. If they read to me, I fall right to sleep.

I’ve read to my kids since they were babies. My son read to his sister the day she came home from the hospital because I told him that was a big brother’s important role. Now he listens as she reads to him and helps her with words she can’t pronounce.

When my son was less than two years old, he made us read the same book to him like a CD stuck on repeat. I would beg him to pick another book. As soon as the last word was read, he’d say, “Again,” and I wanted to cry. But when he was able to speak well, he squeezed between the couch and end table and “read” those books to himself. He memorized every word of every book. I had no idea that’s what he was doing.

When my kids learned their letters and letter sounds, I taught them to read. Seeing my kids read their very first sentence was cooler than the first goal, the first pop fly, the first bike ride without training wheels. Reading is the foundation for their whole lifetime of learning, and there we sat, cheering at each word formed, shock that it had happened. No teacher could take that glory from us. It was our moment.

Many times the kids writhed in agony and yanked at their hair as words became harder, and I clenched my fists to keep myself from doing it. But we pulled through and they read to themselves often.

And now, every night, I am theirs and they are mine. We laughed till we cried when Greg’s dog licked itself, then slathered kisses on his dad’s face in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. We ponder the mystery of the intruder in Nathaniel Fludd. I itch to tell my son whether Snape is friend or foe in the Harry Potter books. And we learn about life through the decades thanks to the American Girl series. Afterward, my kids talk to me about their day, spill their problems, or give me an extra-long hug.

I have taken our reading away as punishment in times of desperation, knowing they still have their father’s turn to look forward to, but the kids are so fond of this time together and it breaks my heart too. I’ve learned to find other consequences.

I know there will come a day when my kids will end their nights with phone calls, studying, or more important things. But I hope it will still include me, even if our stories don’t come from a book.

I’ve been reading The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma about a daughter and father who promised to read every night for 100 nights, then 1,000, and then kept going until she left for college. They began in fourth grade. If I read to my son every night until he leaves for college, by my count, we’ll have read more than 3,000 nights. My daughter, more than 4,000. We do skip when someone is sick or if the grandparents are in town. To me, it’s not about the contest; it’s the bond that matters. No matter what kind of day we’ve had, I’m still there. That’s the moral I hope my kids take away from our story.

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25 Comments

Filed under Everyday Life, I Love Those Darn Kids

25 responses to “Bedtime Stories

  1. miq

    I can’t wait for my daughter to start reading! I so look forward to those bedtime stories.

    • I couldn’t wait either. Now that my kids are both into chapter books, I’m having so much fun. There are so many great new books out there, and some that I never read from my childhood that I hope to enjoy with them.

  2. Oh my goodness, you are making me want to be a better mom! I also have two little ones. I try so hard to read to them every night and it just doesn’t always happen. Reading, and writting these days, are so important to me. I want my children to grow up with the same love of books that I have. You have definitely inspired me to read to them tonight no matter what else gets in the way. I hope that I can keep it up. Loved your post! :)

    • Oh, thank you! I do it because I love it. Truly. I love the books we read. I don’t always love the attitude my kids sometimes give me. But once we’re settled and into the story, it’s good. I love snuggling with them on a cold night and finding out how the book will end. Start with a few minutes each night and see how it goes. Soon they won’t want you to leave. ; )

  3. That’s it – I’m doing it too now! Thank you for this beautiful, inspiring post.

  4. When I started reading your post, I immediately thought of The Reading Promise, which I read a couple of months ago – and then I got to the last paragraph.
    The Cap’n and I have read to Dimples before putting her to bed ever since she was born. Before every nap and every bedtime. I take turns with the Cap’n, but I secretly love it when he can’t take his turn and I get to substitute!

  5. You made me cry; missing those wonderful bedtime stories. “Goodnight Moon” was my first child’s first favorite book. We read it for months on end. I can still hear her baby voice saying the last word “hush”….
    I read to my kids for as long as I could, too; its a gift to you and to them that you will never forget! Thanks for the lovely memory.

  6. I plan on doing the same with my kids in the future… its a great way to bond with and teach them at the same time.

  7. I love this. I have always been a reader and come from a long line of them. I have great memories of my mom reading to my sister and I, legs curled up side by side on our chocolate brown davenport in the living room until just minutes before the school bus was to arrive. The Bridge to Terabithia, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Bunjee Venture, All the Little House on the Prairie books…
    We read to our boys every night. Occasionally I sort through their books, looking to find ones to give away because they have so many (if I had to guess I would say 300+) but I can never seem to find it in me to let them go.

    • I try to keep it in control, saying we don’t need to buy chapter books, but I’ve been surprised at how much my son wants to read them again and again. But you certainly have quite a library! I have a hard time getting rid of the picture books that we read over and over again. I think there’s something about hearing my son’s and daughter’s voices reading it to themselves, or just the fact that we read them hundreds of times and it takes me back.

  8. What a wonderful ritual. My little guy (13 mths) just started to enjoy bedtime stories. Recently, I asked him if he wanted to read a book, and he immediately dropped what he was doing and whipped around in excitement. It was a proud moment for this new mommy. I’m looking forward to deepening this ritual as the years go by. Thanks for sharing yours.

  9. This is a great post, my new friend. Our youngest is 23 *big gulp*, and we read to the kids quite a lot. Reading is the very best thing to teach kids. It’s something we have to do our whole lives. It stimulates wanting to learn.

    Good on you and your family. BTW, I set my phaser on “follow” now!

  10. What a beautiful post! I love reading with my girls at night too. Sometimes, when the book is especially wonderful, I pretend I don’t notice they’ve drifted off. Then I can find out what happened next. ;)

  11. Parents barely do this any more! You are one special Mom! Seriously, do you have any idea how special you are?
    Your kids are going to grow up well-adjusted because they know someone loves and respects them
    God bless, young lady. You deserve it.

    • Ha ha! It’s all very normal to me. Though I am sometimes struck by how abnormal it is for lots of other people. We even eat dinner together every night with no TV–the horror!

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