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"Reading books aloud to children is great for stimulating their imagination and expands their understanding of the world."
"Reading books aloud to children is great for stimulating their imagination and expands their understanding of the world."

Parents: Ditch the gadgets and read your child a bedtime story

JUST how busy are parents?

Yes, in many households, both parents have to go out and work to pay the mortgage. They drop their kids off at the creche early in the morning and collect them later in the day.

Then it’s a case of feeding them, getting them to do homework, trying to get them to put away their phones and wishing them tucked up quietly in bed so that the strung out parents can enjoy a bit of downtime, have an extended wine o’clock, view a box set or just chill out on the couch.

Why bother having kids at all?

You have to question the way they’re reared in the frenetic world we live in.

Having kids seems to be part of a box-ticking exercise, something you inevitably do along with developing your career — and trying to find ways of re-enacting your child-free days when you could live selfishly.

But children are demanding. They’re part of a package that necessitates your time. Can you spare it?

It’s easy for me to criticise parents given that I don’t have children. But one thing is for sure. The trend towards technology replacing the bedtime story should be a wake-up call for anyone truly concerned about the development of children.

According to a new study carried out in the UK, commissioned by the children’s reading charity, BookTrust, a growing reliance on digital storytelling is revealed.

The survey of 1,000 parents, with children aged 10 or under, found that while almost half said they aim to share a story with their kids every night, only 28% manage to do so. A quarter of parents are using digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri to read bedtime stories to their children.

According to some parenting websites, the use of Alexa at bedtime is worthy of high praise. This is because as well as allowing it to read a story to your child, you can ask Alexa to sing to them, dim the lights, create white noise and respond to them from another room if they wake. What has the world come to?

Can Alexa show parental love and concern to a child? Does Alexa care about helping to nurture a reading habit in children?

Of course not. It’s just technology encroaching further into people’s lives.

Two thirds of parents said they give their children time on smartphones, tablets or TV before they go to sleep. That’s a particularly unwise practice.

Looking at screens isn’t great for nodding off to sleep and it only adds to tech addiction. It’s also a lazy way of getting out of actually reading to a child.

All of this is blamed on the time-poor nature of the lives of parents. But it seems, it has always been thus.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) pointed out that “we are always too busy for our children; we never give them the time or interest they deserve. We lavish gifts upon them; but the most precious gift, our personal association, which means so much to them, we give grudgingly”.

Is it that parents find their children tedious, with their demands to have the same story read to them night after night?

For parents who do read stories before sleep time with their child, technology is now an important part of the routine, with 53% saying they use a smartphone, tablet, app or YouTube for the task.

Ideally, parents should read from hard copy books because if a love of reading is to be ignited, there is no better way to do that than to show respect and love for the printed word.

At just a few months of age, a baby can look at pictures, listen to your voice, and point to objects on cardboard pages.

Children learn to love the sound of language before they have even noticed the existence of printed words on a page.

Reading books aloud to children is great for stimulating their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them to develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.

When the rhythm of language is part of a child’s life, learning to read will come as easily to them as learning to walk and talk.

Surely parents can find a 15-minute ‘window’ in their nocturnal schedules to read to their child?

If you can afford the time to scroll through your Facebook and Twitter feeds, then maybe you should relinquish such often useless activities and use the time to read to the kids? After all, it will help children to find the tools they need to succeed in life.

Having access to information through the printed word is important.

Knowledge is power. Reading is the best way to harness it and it’s also relaxing.

It’s a no-brainer.