One of the most precious family routines is bedtime, especially when it includes reading. Not only are you spending quality time with your children, you are also boosting their academic development. Literary analysis, vocabulary, and cause and effect are just a few examples of what children learn when adults read to them.
We all have our favorite picture books and novels for reading at bedtime. But to make the most of the academic advantages of bedtime reading, go beyond fiction and add some of these options.
The non-fiction section of your library is full of science that your children will love: books about animals, extreme weather, exotic habitats, and inventions. Children have a natural curiosity about the world around them. Capitalize on that by integrating science into the nightly book stack.
The lives of famous people give children more than an overview of history. Biographies and autobiographies also provide heroes for our children to emulate. Select people whose lives match the values of your family and talk about what made those people great.
The choices run the gamut from ancient history to modern day personages and everyone in between: doctors, scientists, politicians, religious leaders, mathematicians, queens, generals, and poets.
Learning to love the rhythms of language is the primary role of poetry in a child’s reading repertoire. There are plenty of collections of silly poetry that will cause your children to giggle as you expose them to the fun that word play can be. Shel Sliverstein and Jack Prelutsky are two poets that are sure to please.
While they are laughing at the silly rhymes, they are internalizing figurative speech which they will analyze in high school literature classes one day.
Folktales and Mythology
Children love the genre of folktalkes, fairytales, and myths because they have a wonderful ability to suspend disbelief and enter the realm of the story.
Reading the folktales and myths of Asia, South America, and Africa are ways to explore different cultures without ever leaving North America. And don’t neglect the traditional stories of Western civilization: Aesop’s fables, Greek and Roman mythology, and European fairytales.
Books without text at all, only pictures, are called wordless books. These books provide open ended opportunity for storytelling and experimenting with language. They are simple on one hand, but far from boring. Look for wordless books by these authors: Mercer Mayer, Barbara Lehman, and David Wiesner.
Young children do not have any preconceived ideas about what bedtime reading has to be. It can be poetry, a biography, or a science book just as easily as it can be a novel or a picture book. The next time you head to the library to refill the bedtime reading basket, broaden your choices to include a wide range of genres. The academic payoff will be huge.