Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Read with mother

What's your favourite bit of the day?

Clearly it's the five minutes after they're all in bed.  Isn't it? 
No.  Scratch that, it's the five minutes after they're all in bed and have stopped coming downstairs with spurious excuses about imaginary spiders and empty stomachs.

But apart from that bit, what's your favourite bit of the day?

When I stop to think about it, and am not racing through in the hope of bringing the previously mentioned moment forward by forty-eight seconds, it's the one in the picture.
 That moment, or something a little like it, because actually they each get individual stories (ish, S and A share, as they do a bedroom, but they do get two), happens in our house every day.  It happened every day for me when I was little too; it's just part of our bedtime ritual.  It would never occur to me not to do it, any more than it would occur to me not to clean their teeth.

But apparently that's not true of everyone any more. I hesitate to come out with a statistic, because if you google it, you get numbers varying from only one-fifth to a slightly better but still, to me, surprisingly low one-third, but whatever the true number, many, many parents don't read to their children every night, and many children are turning to screens rather than books to fill their leisure time.
So, to help me read with our children at bedtime, and yes, this is a sponsored post, M&S sent me some new pyjamas, and some lovely books.  The asked, too, why reading to the children was important to me, and what I felt we all got out of it.
 Now, clearly there's an element of preaching to the converted here: they're not getting me to do anything I wasn't already doing after all, but that's why I was happy to take their pjs. 

As I say, though, M&S haven't brilliantly converted a non-reading parent to a reading one with the bribe of a pair of Thomas pyjamas and a book of fairy stories, but what they have done is made me sit and think about why I read to them and what I think it does for all of us. 

And I think it varies as they get older.  For S and A still, and certainly M (who was, if the truth be told, much more chuffed with the pjs than the stories), there is, I suspect, an element of the story serving mainly to stave off the hideous prospect of having to go to bed, and it is their stories I more often race through unthinkingly, but it is also a calm time, a quiet time, a time which can redeem an awful half hour of whinging in the bath and help make the transition into bed just that little bit easier for all of us. 
For L though, it's increasingly about the love of the book.   At six and a half, she is beginning to understand that books can take her places she can never otherwise get to, and for me reading to her (and the fact that I won't let B do it is telling, I feel) is properly precious time.  We cuddle up in bed together and share something as equals, often something I remember from my own childhood: we're reading The Dolls' House at the moment, complete with my (approximately) seven year old handwriting in it, and last week I sobbed my way through the final chapter and a half of Charlotte's Web, while L looked utterly bemused (she's not got the whole loving books that make you cry thing yet, clearly).   She honestly said to me today (and I realise this is going to sound insufferable, but she really did say it): " I think reading is my favourite thing to do".

And there's the rub.  Because reading is my (or one of my) favourite things to do too.  And I couldn't be more delighted that she loves it.  But she's beginning to love reading more than she loves being read to.  She didn't get a story tonight because she said she'd rather read to herself instead.  This may partly be because she's got a Rainbow Fairy book (truly as hideous as it sounds) out of the library and I just can't bring myself to go anywhere near them (hence the library), but I think also she's just beginning to get the pleasure of losing herself in the book of her choice.

I don't think her time of being read to is coming to an end, but I do think, sadly, that it is time limited and I am not, as I had rather hoped to be, going to be the female version of the father who read to his daughter every night until she turned 18.  I hope we'll get to 10, maybe a little longer, but there will come a time when I no longer read to any of them, and I will miss it.

Still, at least I've got three more goes at Charlotte's Web before then.  Who knows, I may not even need tissues when it's M's turn...


  1. Lovely post!

    M&S, if you're reading this, I'd just like to make a comment about your pyjamas for older children. My daughter is 9 nearly 10. The size 8-9 is too small. The size 10-11 is too big. I've tried two different designs. Same problem with each. I guess I'll have to wait 6 months, and then the 10-11s will be ok. Just sayin'.

    1. To be fair, we had the same problem - L is 6 1/2, I've gone for 7-8 pjs which are too long but were free. Sorry M&S, and I am very grateful for them, but I wouldn't have bought them for the same reason.

    2. They are very lovely though - and she'll get *lots* of wear out of them!

  2. The best part of reading to the children is sharing and enjoying the books that I read as a child. My 7 year old is into the Rainbow Fairy books as well - but she reads them on her own time, not bedtime; definitely only from the library and she goes through them like water. The books we read together are different - more enjoyable for me to read and for them to listen - ones they might not read on their own. We read to the girls (7 and 5) together and then the little guy (he's 3) gets his own book. I recently bought an anthology of fairy stories that are a collection of abbreviated stories by the "greats". It's a good compromise. You should check out Barefoot Books. They have some beautiful books with stories from around the world.

  3. Ooh, never heard of barefoot books. Will have a look. Thanks.

  4. Untimely rounds I am making, but I feel your bitter sweetness. My 10 and 8 like to read to themselves or have their dad read to them. And the twins are almost reading now too. I do have one really sweet heartstopper, though. While I miss reading some night, I absolutely love it when I find the olders reading to the youngers. One of my favorite motherhood moments.


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