Mar 8, 2011 by Martha Burns, Ph.D

Routine sleep habits

Remember Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown? When I think of this book, I think about how the bunny is snuggled into bed, toys put a way, moon peeking in through the window, and everyone and everything is whispering “good night.” I’ve noted that the “old lady whispering hush” is rocking in her chair far across the room, and the book The Runaway Bunnysits on the bedside table; story time has ended for this little bunny and now it’s time for sleep.

Everything is perfect and quiet. What might the perfect story time have looked like in that “good night room” 15 minutes beforethe book opens? First of all, the old lady would have been sitting much closer, maybe on the edge of the bed. And her soft, clear voice would be helping that little bunny not only relax, but learn to love books as well as solidify the rudiments of language.

Whenever possible, make a consistent habit of 15-30 minutes each evening to tell or read stories before bed. Just as it did for your child at a year of age, for your tot it will serve two purposes: quiet him down and prepare him for sleep, as well as introduce the repetition of words and sentence forms that build the school-important left hemisphere. As your two-year old begins to develop a love of specific books or stories, you will have a wealth of material to settle her down on car and plane trips where sitting still for long periods is mandatory.

And remember, a bedroom is usually the quietest room in a home. All the soft materials (the bedding, window coverings, rugs, and even “goodnight socks and bears”) actually absorb what hearing specialists call ambient noise, rendering your speech clearer and easier to perceive.  Reading in this quiet room helps your child learn to discriminate the subtle differences in speech sounds. As a bonus, if you read or tell stories to your tot in the bedroom, where you will be sitting right next to him, you will be providing the best speech signal available.  The easy rule I use to describe this is, “An arms span, from mouth to ear, makes sure all bunnies’ hearing is clear.”

It probably doesn’t matter what stories you tell or read. It is the natural clarity of the speech signal that occurs in a ”goodnight room,” the repetition that results from your child’s own preference for certain stories, and the closeness and attention that the child receives from the most important people in her life that make this short period of the day so important to your child. And, it goes without saying that the benefit to you will be that after this small investment of time, you will have some time to yourself to relax, read, enjoy a favorite television show, or just interact with your spouse.

Related Reading:

Creating Reading Intention to Improve Reading Comprehension Skills in Students

Sleep: An Essential Ingredient for Memory Function