Years ago, while studiously taking notes during a social studies class, the boy next to me suddenly crashed to the floor after falling asleep. I’ll never know whether it was the warm afternoon combined with the teacher’s lulling voice or lack of rest the previous night that sent him sprawling. Parents and teachers know how essential it is for students not to be handicapped by fatigue; yet, for numerous reasons, the bedtime hour often becomes progressively later.
If you have little night owls who seem to come alive after dark, then you’ve probably tried setting rules, reasoning, night lights, stuffed animals, and warm flannel sleepers. That’s a good start. But one of the surest ways to smooth the transition from the family circle to a dark bedroom is to include the traditional bedtime story. Somewhere between brushing teeth and saying prayers, many busy parents make time for literary companionship, which calms and prepares a child for a good night’s sleep.
Oral storytelling is the oldest form of communicating tales, and it thrives today. A father of two finds his children run and jump into bed if he promises to tell his version of the “Lone Ranger.” A grandfather said to me recently, “I wish I had written down all the stories I made up for my children.” That time together had provided warm memories later as well as pleasant passage into dreamland at the time.
Another father chooses to sing his tales with guitar accompaniment. This proved to be a success with his nine-month-old son. In fact, when they flew to another city to visit relatives, grandmother had to rent a guitar for bedtime continuity. Singing a soft lullaby delights children, even if parents don’t have a guitar or sing in key.
For most parents, the classic bedtime storybook sets the quiet, peaceful mood at day’s end. These books, designed especially for young children, are short enough to be finished before lights out, hold interest with appealing illustrations, and have a happy ending. A children’s librarian can help select the stories children love to hear again and again. Here are some of the old favorites to add to a parent’s list of favorites.
“Goodnight Moon,” by Margaret Wise Brown.
“Dreams,” by Ezra Jack Keats.
“Bedtime for Frances,” by Russell Hoban.
“The Cat at Night,” by Dahlov Ipcar.
These books are not guaranteed to put a child to sleep. And most likely they will initiate a sharing of personal impressions and experiences. But if parent and child enjoy some style of a story together, fewer bedtime battles will delay a good night’s rest. And that means less danger of falling asleep the next day in school, or anywhere else!