- Religion and Philosophy
Absent fathers (and mothers) can still read the bedtime story to their child
As a parent would you make use of a website that enables you to read a story to your child at bedtime? Aimed at fathers, the software records the voice of fathers (or mothers) reading a bedtime story, and it then adds music and sound effects and emails an audio file to the child.
The British website http://www.magicalstorymachine.com/ was the brainchild of fathers who feared their jobs were robbing their children of bedtime stories. Originally the idea of Audio editor Chris Coombs, 44, he decided to record stories for his daughter Laura, when he had to leave his family to go to Canada after the 9/11 attacks. "We realised we could be providing something for people to make a connection with their kids that otherwise they could never have," he said.
The website prompts Dads to read one of 17 popular stories into their computer's microphone for a fee. Stories available include fairytales such as The Three Little Pigs and Red Riding Hood. Plus others like The Lonely Spider and Smelly Bill.
Now of course there are a variety of reasons why Dads (or Mums in this age of equal opportunity) may not be at home to read that all-important story at the end of the day. Perhaps their job frequently takes them away from home, or they are serving in the military overseas or they may even be in prison. In such cases being able to hear Dad's voice may be of comfort and reassurance to the child, in the absence of the real thing.
In the UK the charity Storybook Dads (www.storybookdads.org.uk) helps maintain the vital emotional bond between prisoners and their children by helping offenders to record bedtime stories on CDs and DVDs. They believe that keeping families together helps to reduce re-offending by up to six times.
Now to me, any parent who goes to the time and expense of recording a story is to be commended, but not everyone sees it like that. Apparently some relationship experts remain unconvinced about the benefits of remote reading. Dr Richard Fletcher, Families and Fathers Research Program Leader at Australia's Newcastle University said the time spent telling stories was about more than just reading. It was important that fathers interacted with their children by cuddling and laughing with them.
However he did accept that maintaining communication with children when fathers could not get home made "perfect sense". Whew, thank goodness for that! I mean you are not likely to record a story and then use it just to get out of being with the child and letting technology do it for you, are you?
Dr Fletcher's view was that reading involves relationship building. We can apply this to reading the Bible on a regular basis, which will enable us to understand what God is like and form a better relationship with Him, as we get to know Him more. Like those children whose fathers could not be there at bedtime, so our Heavenly father speaks to us through His word.
The Message paraphrase of the Bible (2nd Timothy 3 vv 16+17) tells us that "Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful...for showing us the truth, corecting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are ..shaped up for the tasks God has for us."
We will be reminded of His love for us, that He cares for us and about everything that happens to us. The stories we will read will not be fairy stories (although some people think they are), but they still have a happy ending as we receive comfort and reassurance that Our Father misses us and sends us His love.