Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.42 23 May 2019


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Only a third of parents in the UK are reading bedtime stories to their children.

A new study from children’s reading charity BookTrust has found that 65% of parents hand their children off to phones, tablets or television instead of reading a story with them.

While half said they aimed to share a book with their children in the evening, only 28% can find the time to do so – with work or commuting meaning they don’t get home in time.

One-in-five said they simply feel “too busy.”

Bedtime Stories File photo of a father reading a bedtime story. Image: Carson Ganci/Zuma Press/PA Images

Screen time

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, psychotherapist Joanna Fortune said children should be kept away from screens of all kinds at least an hour before going to sleep.

“In the short-term you are getting this quick fix that they are pacified, they are quiet; you have time to go and do something else,” she said.

“But actually, that kind of screen, digital stimulus as they are trying to go to sleep is going to interrupt their sleep patterns.

“It is going to affect how they move through their REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycles; it is going to affect the quality of sleep.

“In fact, all of us – adults included – should not be on screen-based devices for an hour before they go to sleep.”

Technology

The BookTrust survey also found that 26% of British parents use technology like apps, voice assistants

Meanwhile a quarter of British parents revealed that their children listen to bedtime stories through technology like smart speakers, home assistants and apps.

Francesca Simon Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon supporting Pyjarama. Image: BookTrust

Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon said that reading a bedtime story is “one of the best experiences a child and parent can share, and something tech cannot replace.”

“The many evenings I spent immersed in books with my son, Joshua – until he was 11 – not only inspired me to become a children's author but are also some of our best shared memories and gave my son the confidence, curiosity and thirst for learning that has set him up for life,” she said.

Bedtime stories

BookTrust director Gemma Malley said parents are finding it 'harder and harder' to fit bedtime stories into their busy schedules.

“I know from experience that it can be tempting to replace reading to your child with time on a device – but swapping books for tech can have profound consequences,” she said.

“However, just ten minutes of reading a book together a day makes such a difference.

“It helps build children's language, resilience, confidence and imagination and is an amazing way for families to bond.

BookTrust is urging UK residents to wear pyjamas all day on June 7th to raise funds to ensure that every child experiences the life-changing benefits of books and reading.


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