Bedtime Stories

The New York Times recently ran a story about the importance of bedtime stories for children by Dr. Perri Klass, MD.  The correlation between early exposure to reading and later language development and learning success is a generally accepted belief.  However, the technology of using magnetic resonance scans by researchers actually shows how brain activation in the left hemisphere, while listening to stories, affects a child’s ability to imagine and create visual images, important  for later reading of books without pictures.

Sometimes we know we are doing the right thing, even without being able to explain it.  Technology offers a deeper understanding of the science underneath our instinctive wisdom.  Some time ago I was pleasantly surprised when one of my grown children asked me about a childhood bedtime book that she now wished to use with her own children.

As adults, one of the best preparations for a good night’s sleep, is the ritual of bedtime reading.  The repetitive movement of eyes across a page and concentration on a story slows down an overactive mind, darting from one worry or thought to the next.   A pattern or bedtime ritual has no unwanted side effects and can be something we look forward to as our day winds down.

Dr. Klass writes:  “And as every parent who has read a bedtime story knows, this is all happening in the context of face-time, of skin-to-skin contact, of the hard-to-quantify but essential mix of security and comfort and ritual.  It’s what makes toddlers demand the same story over and over again, and it’s the reason parents tear up (especially those of us with adult children) when we occasionally happen across a long-ago bedtime book.”