Some parents choose to include language-based routines as a pre-sleep ritual which usually includes signing, playing games as well as storytelling. These have been found to have a positive impact in children of the age of 3 on their cognitive development, and those of the age of 5 on their behavior (Hale et al., 2011).
These results allude to a richer vocabulary as well as less anxious and aggressive behavior in children. The former is likely to have a more lasting impact as seen by a study, conducted by Moss (1976) which identifies the language-related benefits bedtime stories have at a young age. These include improvement in language and narrative skills, reading comprehension and creativity (as bedtime stories increase the child’s imagination).
Moreover, these stories showcase social and emotional assets (Blake & Maiese, 2008). The child’s sensitivity towards the mental states of other people is likely to increase which in the long run develops what we know of today as emotional intelligence (EI). The relationship and attachment between child and caregiver/parent is also strengthened as it helps the child cherish a sense of belonging and security, even when a new sibling is born.
Can we utilize the content of bedtime stories to teach children not only a lesson but also change their behavior? A study carried out by Christodulu & Durand (2004) has shown that children with developmental disorders (i.e. suffering from sleep difficulties) have benefited from bedtime stories as it brought them relief and put an end to many problems including waking up in the middle of the night. Hereby, parents can include behavioral restrictions and reinforcements to alleviate the stress/ sleep problems and alter the child’s behavior.
What types of bedtime stories should we read to our children? A child’s subconscious records everything and might even dream about the story he has heard right before bed. This is why sometimes parents are told not to read their children horror stories or any story with content that does not suit their age frame. It’s also recommended that we read our children stories that have a moral and stray away from those that don’t. This goes to show how the content of those stories could add to the moral development of the children as well as it gives them the opportunity to reflect on what is right and wrong.
Thus, the role of bedtime stories is of great importance for children as it extends far beyond the notion of helping a child sleep peacefully. This phenomenon, which we have looked upon as being of great cultural roots, has turned out to potentially have an impact on the child’s life, whether cognitively, socially or psychologically.
Bharti, B., Malhi, P., & Kashyap, S. (2006). Patterns and problems of sleep in school going children. Indian Pediatrics, 43, 35-38.
Blake, J. & Maiese, N. (2008). No fairytale...The benefits of the bedtime story. The psychologist, 21(5).386-388.
Christodulu, K. & Durand, V. (2004). Reducing bedtime disturbance and night waking using positive bedtime routines and sleep restriction.Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, 19(3), 130-139. https://doi.org/10883576040190030101
Hale, L., Berger, L. M., LeBourgeois, M. K., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2011). A longitudinal study of preschoolers’ language-based bedtime routines, sleep duration, and wellbeing. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(3), 423-433. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0023564
Jenni, O. & O’Connor, B. (2005). Children’s sleep: An interplay between culture and biology. Pediatrics, 115(1 Suppl), 204-216.
Moss, J. F. (1976).The bedtime story and language development. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 130(2).180-183.
Writer, S. (2018). The bedtime story: A new chapter. Indian Journal of Health and Well Being, 9(1), 155-157.