In his 2008 book Under Pressure: Putting the Child Back in Childhood, author Carl Honore writes about the moment he realized he needed to slow down while parenting. During bedtime story he was skipping pages and shortening sentences in an effort to rush through the book and turn out the light faster (and, presumably, move on to that cherished window between kid-bedtime and parent-bedtime).
Other parents are finding storytime a drag, too. A recent Disney survey found that though half of UK parents surveyed think storytime is time well spent with their kids, only a third read to them every day. The rest are pleading “too busy.”
Based on my own experience though, I am guessing that what Honore probably didn’t count on — and what the survey didn’t ask about — was a child’s need to have the same story read over and over and over and over again. It is really annoying and enough to put even the most well-intentioned parent off of storytime for good. That, dear reader, is my reality.
We all know that reading to kids is important. It’s a great way to promote literacy and storytelling. It’s also a nice time at the end of the day to cuddle and bond. I just don’t like reading the same book every night for months. When Avery was little she would go choose a bedtime story from the bookshelf and I would repeat this mantra: “Anything but Goodnight Moon, anything but Goodnight Moon, anything but Goodnight Moon.” And then she would bring over — wait for it — Goodnight Moon for what felt like the 1,000th reading. Goodnight Nobody? What does that even mean??
Fortunately Avery can now read on her own so I am left to struggle through storytime only with Bennett. At the end of the summer he was on a Flap Your Wings tear. It’s a hilarious book about Mr. and Mrs. Bird, in which they hatch and raise a crocodile baby, then try to teach it how to fly. I really loved that book, and watching Bennett get excited every time on the page where the egg hatches to reveal a baby crocodile was priceless. “That’s not a baby bird!!” he would exclaim.
Sadly, not all children’s books are created equal. He has now moved on to The Little Engine That Could, which is supposed to teach kids that success and reward come from trying hard. It’s a great lesson delivered in a painful format. There’s an annoying train filled with crap toys (a creepy toy clown) and food (spinach and peppermint drops) that breaks down. The clown ominously comes to life and begs a bunch of passing engines to haul the toys and food over the mountain so the train can deliver the goods to the waiting children, etc.
Since I’ve read the story so many times, Bennett has memorized the entire book. This means that if I try to skip pages or shorten sentences, he calls me on it. “No Mommy,” he’ll stop me. “Read it again.” So my eyes glaze over and I stifle another yawn and I summon my Little Blue Engine voice and also the will to go on: “I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!”
Every night I suggest different stories to Bennett. “How about Mortimer? We haven’t read that in awhile. What about The Cat in the Hat?”
Bennett: “Mommy, how about The Little Engine That Could?”
Me: “I cannot. I cannot. I cannot.”
How about you? Which bedtime stories are you tired of reading over and over and over and over again?