~ The Secret Powers of a Good Bedtime Story ~

Posted: November 11, 2016 in "big picture" questions, books, children's writing, Family stories, Fiction, parenting, perseverance, Raising boys, readers, Reading aloud
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“There clearly is a myth about boys and reading as so many people seem to think that the gender gap in reading is bigger than it is, but research shows that the number one factor that determines your reading ability is how often your parents read out loud to you and the number of books in your house, which is connected with social class”. ~ Jennifer Dyer skully jensen @catagator


I’ve been a long time believer in the positive power of a bedtime story.

We grew up with our father reading a story to us, last thing at night, every night. The bedtime story formed a warm, loving, stable pillar of our childhood for my siblings and I.

While my middle child is an avid reader, my youngest son didn’t gravitate to reading for pleasure, so the nightly ritual of reading the boys a few books neatly filled the gap.

The kids and I have started reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. Sam-the-man is finding the transition difficult; he needs to babble quietly to himself the whole time I’m reading. I’m reassured he is enjoying it nevertheless, as when I asked him if he’d like me to keep reading, he said an emphatic, yes!


Mortal Engines has my youngest son, however, riveted. He is driven to talk about what has happened in each chapter we’ve read. During the toothbrushing/toileting before bed phase of the evening, he’ll be asking deep questions and pondering on the chapter. I am seeing first-hand, how a really good book can open and broaden a child’s mind. He’s prompted to look at things a little differently and ask some of the bigger questions.

I wonder if this has inspired the budding writer in him. In the past, I’d been impressed by my youngest son’s obvious talent for imaginative story. Yet, somewhere along the way, unbeknownst to me, his writing skills had languished. I was shocked to be called into school for a talk with his teacher, earlier in the year, to discuss ‘below National standard writing and English skills.’ His punctuation, use of descriptive words, and grasp of basic story structure needed work.

You can imagine how fired up I was. In the following holiday break, I spent time with Nat, reading stories and talking about them. We sat and made stories up on the spot a few times. On more than one occasion, we used making up stories to stave off the boredom of waiting for appointments.


This week, Nat brought home three typed pages for me to read. Titled, ‘A Wizard’s Journey,’ it was a story he’d written and read aloud in class. I read it and was knocked over by everything. He had it all: structure, descriptive words, active words. I felt a rush of admiration for his talent. Moreover, I felt proud to see he had applied himself and improved.

He said, “A very beautiful thing happened today. My teacher said my story was the best story she’d ever heard in class.”

He was melting. And so was my heart. What a joy!


Here was a boy who used to have no interest in reading for pleasure. His writing skills were under par, and yet, through the tradition of the bedtime story, we happened to hit upon the right sort of book, at the right time, to light up his inner storyteller.

The regular rhythm of the bedtime story provided the opportunity for that key moment in a reader’s life.  This may be the first book he remembers – the first one that makes him look for the next book in the series or that the author has written.

With a bit of luck, Mortal Engines has sparked my youngest son’s genuine interest in reading. All I can say for sure is that his writing skill and ability has leaped forward. He’s asking bigger picture questions. These things go hand in hand with increasing literacy.

Author and former teacher, Michael Morpurgo: It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children. When I was a boy I didn’t much like reading either, but it was my mother reading to me and my brother Pieter at bedtime that kept stories and books alive for me.

Do you read to your kids? Do you believe in the gentle benevolent power of the bedtime story?


Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


Everything in a good book (perhaps even in a bad book) is a new truth, a new revelation to a child, whose experiences are, as yet, so limited. Therefore writers for children need to be extra careful about preaching, about filling in those empty spaces for a child. -Jane Yolen



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  1. That’s fantastic, Yvette! Go Nat. My youngest should be reading chapter books by now but any book is better than none.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Yes, I’m thrilled. We were still reading picture books till the end of last year, don’t worry – mainly because Sam wasn’t ready to move on – and they had a lot of very complex picture books which took a long time to read. However, I bought them a number of what we call here “early readers” last Christmas, so we began on simple chapter novels this year. From there, we’ve progressed quickly. We’ve read all the Roald Dahl books and a slew of other shorties, like Goosebumps tomes and anthologies of short stories. This is our first serious middle grade novel. What an adventure!


  2. Bun Karyudo says:

    I say something about this in your Facebook post earlier, so was interested to come over and learn more about what happened. That’s great that Nat did so well with his story. If he starts getting into reading and writing at this age, who knows where he could end up? 

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Exactly! It’s been fascinating for me to witness, as well. They say that for kids coming up, they’ll either excel at maths and fail at English, or they’ll excel in English and fail at maths and sciences. I looked at the youngest son and the temptation was to pigeon-hole him. ‘Ah, well, we can’t have it all, he’s top of the class in maths, so that’s that.’ Luckily for him, he had a good teacher. She roped me in to help early in the year, and to see him develop his writing/reading abilities and start to shine there, too, has been unexpected. An utter delight. And, as you say, who knows where he could go from here. The sky’s the limit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have sons and none of them are avid readers. Yet, their father reads 10 to 20 books a month. When he’s not working, he has a book in his hands. I didn’t know him as a child, so I’m hoping this reading bug came later. Still, it’s strange to me that our children haven’t grasped our love of books. One day? Lovely post, Yvette. As usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Thanks, Joylene! 🙂 I have three sons as you know, and until now, only one of them (Sam-the-man) has been an avid reader. I had nearly given up on turning the youngest around, because he’s eleven now and hadn’t shown any sign of being interested in reading for pleasure. To see this little light flare in him is cause for celebration.
      I’m impressed at your hubby’s passion for reading. 10-20 books a month is exceptional! Wow. I have heard that boys will take after their father with regards general feeling about books and the value of reading. Therefore, I’m sure all is not lost with your boys, and they may (as you say) discover it for themselves later in life. One day! 🙂


  4. This is near and dear to my heart. When I started my blog the subtitle was “The Importance of Reading With Children”. I’ve since branched out a bit, but I consider a bedtime story one of the best gifts a child can receive. Lovely article, Yvette.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Totally agree. Bedtime stories were a routine part of my sons bedtime ritual. Not only did they benefit but I enjoyed the process as well.

    My father had read us bedtime stories while we were growing up and I remember how much I used to look forward to hearing them. There were four of us, so it was a nightly ritual but more of a special treat that I really enjoyed.


    Liked by 1 person

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