As a child I always had a bedtime story so it was something I was keen to implement into James’ bedtime routine. I started looking at books with him during the day from a very young age. We began using the “That’s Not My” series of books even when he was far too young to understand them, we would feel the different textures on the pages together. These books are still some of James’ favourites at 2 1/2; he now understands them and still loves feeling the different pages. He even went through a stage of licking certain textures in the books.
We began reading bedtime stories for James when he was around 10 months old as this was the time I stopped breastfeeding him to sleep. Instead of being fed to sleep we would read him some stories and then put him in his cot to go to sleep (the actual falling asleep without any fuss is another story and took many months to accomplish). My thinking was he was being comforted by being breastfed and I wanted to replace that with something nice like a bedtime story, so he would go to bed feeling happy.
We read James 3 bedtime stories a night (they are short books), his dad normally reads two and I read one. If his dad is away then obviously I will read them all but I probably don’t do as good a job. By the end of the day I am usually counting down the minutes until bedtime so lack the enthusiasm, where as his dad hasn’t seen him all day and has that extra burst of energy to bring books alive, rather than sounding like a zombie like me.
To keep James engaged in his books they need to have something interactive. He wants to be able to touch something, feel something or push buttons for there to be a sound. There is also The Gruffalo puppet book that we read every night for ages until I decided to ban my husband from reading it. It would get James so over excited that he would end up hurting me in some way, as he would leap off my lap to touch The Gruffalo puppet. Westonbirt Arboretum has a pretty large Gruffalo statue, which I thought James would be really impressed with, I was wrong, he actually seemed scared by it. That night I thought I would read The Gruffalo puppet book to him. He took one look at the puppet, started crying and trying to get it out of my hands. I ended up throwing it out of his bedroom so he couldn’t see it. I am pleased to report that since this incident The Gruffalo puppet book is now welcome again as a bedtime story, providing his dad doesn’t get too over enthusiastic about it.
It’s been lovely to watch how James has developed with his bedtime stories. We used to have to put his fingers on the feely parts, and help him open flaps, which certainly made bedtime stories last longer. As he got older he was then able to find the feely parts himself, open the flaps and even turn the pages himself. We used to wonder how much of the story he was actually understanding or taking in, but he has now moved onto being far more vocally interactive with his stories. He went through stages of moving our fingers to things in his books so we could tell him what the word for it was, to then using his own fingers to point at what word he wanted to know. It amazes me how much he actually remembers from when we have told him words for things. He has an A to Z of animals book, where each letter is a different animal and the animal is doing something under each flap. My husband hates this book because James often turns the pages too fast for him to make sure the flap is back down properly and it is quite time consuming to read. After not reading the book for a while James has amazed us with knowing the names for nearly all of the animals in the book, and one even includes a Urial. I would like to thank my friend Michelle Gegg for buying this book for him and introducing him to words such as Urial, an animal neither of us had heard of. James may also have a hard time getting his head around Iguana, and likes to call it dinosaur instead, but who can blame him, from the picture it looks very much like a dinosaur.
I don’t think James is far off moving onto some books without interactive parts, as long as the book was about something that interested him. He definitely understands far more than we give him credit for, it will just be keeping him interested without having something to touch or open. He seems to have a real love for books, and will often take himself into his playroom and pick books from the bookcase to look through. Obviously he is too young to be able to read them, but we hear him reading them in James language, or he will actually point to things in the books that he does know and say the correct word. Hopefully his love for books will continue as he gets older and we can enjoy reading with him even more, and reading for himself.
Do you read bedtime stories to your children? What are their favourite books?