So we’ve been thinking a lot this time of year about getting kids back on that school-night schedule, hard as it may be for youngsters and grown-ups alike. It’s important, because sleep is even more crucial for kids than for adults and the average elementary school student needs 11 hours per night.
Experts say bedtime routines—some people call them “rituals”—help a lot with this. And we think bedtime stories are among of the best of those. They allow you to quiet down and snuggle under the covers with your kiddos when otherwise they might be bouncing off the bed, the walls and the ceiling. Plus, they help develop kids’ brains.
“Children whose parents reported more reading at home and more books in the home showed significantly greater activation of brain areas in a region of the left hemisphere called the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex,” says the New York Times, citing a study published by the Journal Pediatrics this month.
“This brain area is ‘a watershed region, all about multisensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,’ said the lead author, Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.”
Apparently, kids whose parents read aloud to them a lot develop the same part of the brain that is active when older kids read to themselves. They also show significantly more activity in the parts of the brain that process visual stimuli.
Why? Because as they hear words, children are imagining pictures. They are associating words with things they’ve seen and putting it all together. What a great skill for young minds! Dr. Hutton told the Times that this skill helps children become better readers later on, and move more seamlessly into non-picture books.
Reading books aloud also helps to enrich the language that young children hear, and in turn improve their vocabularies and literary skills.
Books are different, Hutton said, than videos. When they watch television, kids don’t have to imagine anything—they are just getting a story spoon-fed to them. Plus, books don’t have that pesky screen blue light that inhibits sleepiness.
So give bedtime stories a try! Before you know it, your droopy-eyed darlings will be begging: “Please, pleeeease read another one!”
Do you have an awesome bedtime routine? Share it with us- we’d love to hear about it!