I haven’t read to my child at bedtime. How do I start?

Dad reading to children in bedIf you haven’t been reading to your child at bedtime, but you want to establish that tradition in your family, here are some ways to begin.

You might gain your child’s approval by saying she is going to be allowed to stay up 15 minutes later every night while you read together.

You might let her choose the reading material. You needn’t read a book together. If she is into fashion, read a fashion magazine or newspaper. If he is into making things with his hands, read Popular Mechanics. The idea is to make the reading experience pleasurable for your child.

Help your child to vary the reading material. Go to the library together and poke into the nonfiction section about animals, stars, and history. Show her the biography section and read some names of famous people she might know a bit about. Let her choose so she has have a stake in the reading.

If electronic equipment will entice your child, use it. If comic books will entice your child, use them. If graphic novels will entice your child, use them.

Many children are ignorant of world news, but an evening read of a news story can make children aware of the wider world. With you there to interpret, the child can become more sophisticated.

If your child is reading too, and he is a reluctant reader, suggest that he read one page and you read another, or he read one paragraph and you read another. But at first you might want to do the reading yourself, to attract your child to the idea of bedtime reading. If he thinks he has to work, he will balk.

If you read a book for which there is a film, suggest that you watch it together after you finish the book. Heidi, Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer and so many more children’s books have been turned into films. You can discuss how the book and movie differ, and which she likes better.

If there is a special TV show one night or you are on vacation, you might suggest skipping the evening read for that special event. You might be surprised to see disappointment on your child’s face. If so, suggest that you could read, but just a bit later or during the baby’s nap. For the chance to cuddle up with Mom or Dad, most children will want to read.

Keep this time stress free. If your child is relaxed, she might raise questions about matters she is tossing around in her mind. Let that be her choice though.

Stick to the time you set—15 minutes, 20 minutes or whatever you decide on. If necessary, set a timer. The child must learn that this is a limited happy experience that she can look forward to again tomorrow evening.

Good luck!

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