Western Mail - - WM2 - CATHY OWEN

ONCE upon a time more and more par­ents stopped read­ing books with their chil­dren at night.

Not in a fic­tional world far, far way, but right here, right now in 2017.

It seems the nightly tra­di­tion that is the per­fect way for chil­dren and par­ents to bond at the end of a long day has un­der­gone a dra­matic de­cline in a sin­gle gen­er­a­tion.

A new poll of moth­ers with chil­dren aged seven and un­der found that only 13% read their chil­dren bed­time sto­ries ev­ery night, even though 78% were them­selves read to.

Now I’m not a model par­ent but read­ing bed­time sto­ries is one of my favourite parts of the day, and a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for us all.

At the end of a hard day it can be tempt­ing to make an ex­cuse not to reach to the book shelf but you do it and it is al­ways worth it.

It can be a mag­i­cal trip down mem­ory lane, re­dis­cov­er­ing those sto­ries of my own youth in worlds where wall­pa­per made out of choco­late ex­ist, where an­i­mals talk to you, or where your ad­ven­tures can trans­port you around the world.

The poll­sters found that one of the ma­jor chal­lenges ap­pears to lie in get­ting chil­dren to pay at­ten­tion to books.

Nearly half of those sur­veyed said their chil­dren found tele­vi­sion, com­puter games, and other toys more di­vert­ing. Wor­ry­ingly, 4% said their chil­dren do not own any books at all.

But read­ing to­gether is a bed­time rit­ual that chil­dren love and one that par­ents could en­joy so much too if they just stopped and made the time to spend a few mag­i­cal mo­ments at the end of a manic day.

The ben­e­fits of bed­time sto­ries for chil­dren are well-doc­u­mented. They help chil­dren to wind down and sleep and help them to learn.

Booktrust CEO Diana Ger­ald says: “Read­ing with your child or baby is a great way to build vo­cab­u­lary, con­fi­dence and imag­i­na­tion, as well as help­ing to calm your child’s mind at the end of a busy day.”

But surely those are ben­e­fits for grown-ups too. It cer­tainly helps make a dif­fi­cult day that bit easier as you slow down and get lost in the pages of a book your­self.

It’s re­ally quite sad to see how few par­ents are able to reg­u­larly read their chil­dren bed­time sto­ries.

While work­ing long hours is out of many par­ents’ con­trol, com­pris­ing and mak­ing a com­mit­ment to read to chil­dren on a day off or at the week­ends to make it be­come a special part of the week could pro­vide the happy end­ing that will see us all liv­ing hap­pily ever af­ter.

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