Finally, Big Bear said, "Little Hummingbird, what are you doing?" Little Hummingbird looked at the other animals. She said, "I am doing what I can."
- Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, The Little Hummingbird
As a child, hearing the phrase “goodnight” and then finding yourself in a semi-dark room which, just seconds before, was shimmering with light, and your parents’ comfortable presence can be terrifying. Saying goodnight is equivalent to saying goodbye in children’s minds. Followed by the mysterious process of drifting to sleep is another struggle. It can cause all sorts of anxious thoughts to arise, making the chances of achieving a goodnight’s sleep decline.
So why are bedtime stories essential for children?
Firstly, it gives them food for thought.
Bedtime stories, whether it be fairy tales or grizzly tales, sparks imagination. The thoughts, and emotion that arise from the story experience act as a focus and distraction point. This is important not only for children but parents as well. After a day of activities and exasperations, reading a book can bring you closer to sleep. The calming effect induces fatigue to takeover and stimulating external factors to settle.
As bedtime stories happen when children are tired and tucked away in their beds, making it part of a bedtime routine serves as a powerful sleeping cue. Over time, it will become easier to support the cultivation of good-quality sleep for your child.
Furthermore, the research emphasises the power of bedtime reading for adults too, so for the parents reading this, we encourage you to add this to your own sleep routine to unwind and release yourself from any stress.
Dr. Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist says
“There’s a paradox to sleep, in that it comes when you’re not trying. When you try to sleep, your mind monitors your efforts, which then keeps you awake. Instead, have the intention of relaxing and letting go. The first step in getting a good night’s sleep is being in the right mindset. If you’re tired, relaxed, and ready for sleep, you will automatically fall asleep after 10 to 20 minutes. This is why doing something calming before bed will help prepare you for sleep. This can be meditation, reading (nothing too exciting) or listening to a ‘Sleep Story’, designed to help you let go and ease into a peaceful slumber.”
(Cited from GettheGloss.com)
A world of imagination
Listening to stories activates mental imagery and narrative comprehension. It encourages children to switch on their imagination and create their own understanding of what’s being read to them.
But what’s storytelling without some goofiness?
To get your child fully in touch with their realm of imagination, it is important for parents to act out the story and impersonate the characters. Children absolutely adore movement and sound with their stories, and it’s a perfect time to just be silly. Not only does it promote engagement and conversation, but it also allows you and your little ones to simply enjoy each other’s company.
Peter Gorski, M.D., chair of the early childhood committee of the American Academy of Paediatrics said,
"More than anything, you want them to associate reading with emotional warmth and fun.”
(Cited from Parents.com)
The rise of language and knowledge
Wouldn’t you be utterly surprised if your toddler casually articulated words like, “quintessence”. Yes, but that’s not something we can certify. However, on the plus side, regularly storytelling enables children to augment their dictionary. The repetition of new words will encourage them to link meanings with it and increase their literacy. Furthermore, reading introduces them to a diverse collection of information such as cultures, traditions, and ideas. They’ll possess a deeper understanding of the world through the perspective of fictional characters. They’ll be able to grasp the concept of protagonist vs antagonist, and the different emotions experienced throughout the story which makes storytelling a great channel for empathy as well!
So, what do you say?
Just one story a night can truly do wonders. If you are looking for some stories to read to your little ones tonight, here are some suggestions 😊
Little Owl’s Bedtime - by Debi Gliori
Wolfboy - by Andy Harkness
Good Night I Love You – by Caroline Church
The Way I Feel – by Janan Cain
The Lion and the Mouse - by Jerry Pinkney
Blanche Hates the Night - by Sibylle Delacroix
The Way Home in the Night - by Akiko Miyakoshi
The Gruffalo – by Julia Donaldson
Rapunzel – by Catherine McCafferty
Can't you Sleep, Little Bear? - by Martin Waddell
Child of the Universe - by Ray Jayawardhana
And, if you are looking for dreamy tales to help you drift off, check out the ones below! Most are available on mobile apps such as Audible and Spotify.
Nothing Much Happens: Cozy and Calming Stories to Soothe Your Mind and Help You Sleep - by Kathryn Nicolai
Slouching Towards Bethlehem – by Joan Didion
To The Lighthouse – by Virginia Woolf
The Lord of the Rings - by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Architect's Apprentice - by Elif Shafak