ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Read a Bedtime Story

Updated on February 26, 2013
One of my son's favorite books.
One of my son's favorite books.

New parents quickly learn that one of the most important parts of raising a child involves rituals. Kids love rituals.

Even as infants, children like knowing what's going on and what to expect. If you habitually change your child's diaper right before nap and bedtime, then even at the earliest of ages, the child knows that sleep is on its way.

And even at that early age, developing a bedtime ritual that includes reading books is a good idea. Although reading a book to a six-month-old will frequently seem pointless, it pays off later as your child develops language and listening skills.

As my son, Tyler, developed his language skills, he loved reading stories at bedtime. Early on, when he could only string together a few words, stories were always interesting. Then, as he progressed, he began to memorize parts of the books and could eventually repeat them.

Now, at two-and-a-half, he's at a point where his communication skills are so developed that he doesn't pay as much attention to his stories as he once did. It seems that it's a combination of some kind of attention deficit problem or the fact that he likes hearing himself talk or that his brain development is so frenetically alive and he can't concentrate.

Whatever the case, our bedtime ritual of reading stories has turned into a bit of frustration as Tyler listens to the first few words then quickly finds something else to do. He'll grab a stuffed animal. He'll starting telling his own story. He'll try to engage mom or dad in a discussion. He'll try to leave the room. Whatever it is, the act of reading the story and the act of listening to the story have drifted far apart.

So here's a trick I have developed (okay, more like stumbled upon) that not only works (for now), but further develops Tyler's cognitive skills.

As I'm reading, I change key words in the story.

Because Tyler has memorized all his books (which could be the source of his boredom), he knows what's coming. However, when I change one of the story's key words, it forces Tyler to listen and pay attention. He not only stops what he is doing, but he fully engages with the story and makes corrections. Not only can this be a fun way to engage your child when he might be at a developmental point where paying attention is hard, but you can actually teach him new language skills.

For instance, in "The Mixed Up Chameleon" by Eric Carle, I sometimes just change the title to "The Mixed Up Iguana" to which Tyler usually says: "No, Chameleon." This is the most obvious of changes. Fortunately, the book lends itself well to the task of teaching as it provides a list of animals and characteristics when the Mixed Up Chameleon begins wishing he could be other animals. For instance, here is a line from the book:

"I wish I could be handsome, like a flamingo."

At first, I simply changed the name of the animal. I would say: "I wish I could be handsome, like a penguin." Tyler would enthusiastically correct me: "No," he would say. "Flamingo." After awhile though, as he gets used to what's going on, the effectiveness of this technique can sometimes wane, so I began changing the adjectives.

"I wish I could be ugly, like a flamingo."

This technique not only re-engages Tyler's mind, but can teach him opposites and make him aware of contrasting words. Here are some other lines from the book that lend themselves well to this technique:

"I wish I could be smart, like a fox."

"I wish I could see things far away, like a giraffe."

Certainly, you see how this can work. Take a look at the special books you read your children before bedtime. The time will come when they will grow bored, but you'll be one step ahead. Try this technique and I bet you'll be able to re-engage them and stop a lot of distracted behaviors that can turn bedtime from a soothing, quiet time into a struggle for control.


Submit a Comment

  • leisa1980 profile image


    6 years ago

    I enjoyed your post and will keep your technique in mind for future reference :)

  • Carlon Michelle profile image

    Carlon Michelle 

    6 years ago from USA

    Wish I knew this technique when I was a nanny. Very nice.

  • HennieN profile image


    7 years ago from South Africa

    Great hub. I have 2 boys aged 7 and 9 and have been reading stories for them since they were 6 months old.

    They now have a wonderful vocabulary, and enjoys reading. I believe we are under estimating the power of reading to our children!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)