Why we have to put reading to children back on the agenda

Tim Thornborough | March 26th 2018

Recent research has suggested that parents and carers are reading less to their children. The study* claimed that the proportion of toddlers being read to every day has dropped by a fifth over the last five years. It found that while 69% of preschool children were read to daily in 2013, that figure had dropped to just 51%.

As for why they were not reading to their children, 19% of parents of three to four-year-olds said “the struggle to find energy at the end of the day” was a factor, while 16% cited “the child’s preference to do other things”. In other words, watching TV or playing on a device. Any parent can empathise with those reasons. Our hyperactive pace of life; the pull and ease of the “electronic babysitter”; the sheer effort of will it takes to overcome our own lethargy, and wrench a child away from an addictive game.

But we can. We should. We must. Here’s why

  1. Reading to children nurtures your relationship, letting them play a game does not. These are precious times to spend one to one, or in a group with your children. Reading with Dad, or cosy-ing up on the sofa with Mum or a family friend or grandparent grow strong relationships of trust and interest and understanding. And the window for doing that is relatively small. Use it while you can.
  2. It helps them sleep better. There’s plenty of science to show that stimulating games and blue light leave children hyper alert, and can spoil sleep patterns. Establishing healthy “wind down” routines will benefit your children’s health and sleep for life — not to mention yours. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy a fun, upbeat hilarious story, or even have horseplay or a tickling session before bedtime — just that if you finish off with a slower more paced story, it will help all of you sleep better.
  3. It’s your moment to share your love and trust in God life to life. Most Christians will want to include a Bible story somewhere in the bedtime routine. It is not simply an exercise in head knowledge — knowing another story from scripture. It’s your opportunity to testify to the love, care and forgiveness you have received from your heavenly father. There are remarkably few opportunities when you can have such precious conversations. 
  4. It stimulates their imagination. Which of course, games and TV shows can also do, but there is a unique way that listening to a story can stimulate us all. When you have to create your own pictures in your head, rather than being shown them, it will help develop children who are thoughtful, creative, and more understanding of subtlety.

Wonderfully, there is no end of fabulous books to read and share with your children. So, for all these reasons and more, please make the effort to push through the tiredness, face down the tantrums when the TV is turned off; pick up a book and read. No one will regret it.

Enter our giveaway

To show our commitment to the value of children's literature we're giving away a full set of our much-loved children's hardback series.

*The annual Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer survey from Nielsen Book Research, interviewed 1,596 parents of 0 to 13-year-olds, and 417 14 to 17-year-olds in the UK last autumn.

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Tim Thornborough

Tim Thornborough is the founder and Publishing Director of The Good Book Company. He is series editor of Explore Bible-reading notes, and has contributed to many books published by the Good Book Company and others. He is married to Kathy and has three adult daughters.

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