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Bedtime stories have many advantages, for parents/adults and children alike. The fixed routine of a bedtime story before sleeping has a relaxing effect, and the soothing voice of a person telling a story makes the child fall asleep more easily. The emotional aspect creates a bond between the storyteller and the listener, often a parent and child.
Bedtime stories can be read from a book, or may be invented by the storyteller. The stories tend to be short, with a happy ending. A different form of bedtime reading uses longer stories, but divides them up, thus creating cliffhangers. Children will look forward to their bedtime story, and a fixed routine is installed.
There is no true “beginning” of when bedtime stories started since storytelling in general has been part of world culture since humanity started. However, the idea of a modern day bedtime story evolved from standard storytelling.
Before the industrial revolution families and friends would work hard during the day; both the parents and the children. At the sun set everyone would gather around the campfire to talk about gossip and to tell stories. After the story, both the parents and the children would sleep together at night. The stories included drama, trauma, and adventure that both the children and parents would listen to. As the Industrial Revolution started and with the rise of the middle class, parents and children began to go to bed at separate times and in separate rooms. Bedtime Schedules formed.
Another key indicator was the switch from oral storytelling to reading a book. After the Industrial Revolution, book publishers became very competitive in trying to sell the best stories to as many as possible. Stories were lavish, full of life, and color such as in Peter Pan. After WW1 the publishers began shifting to the 3-6 year old age gap. The story started becoming very simple. Today most published bedtime stories are between 1-5 min long with a very mild vocabulary. In the past, the children would hear the stories that the adults would tell which were very dark and grim. Some of the most well known stories were those of the Brothers Grimm. Yet, as society grew, the stories evolved to make them happy and light.
Bedtime stories usually have some form of moral at the end. Older bedtime stories were fairly graphic and intense, thus the morals were graphic and intense as well. A common example is the Sandman, who at night would throw sand in kid’s eyes if they were not asleep. Bedtime stories also would teach children certain morals for when they are adults. Disney was very well known early on with Snow White and Sleeping Beauty for portraying a woman who is pure and likes to clean. Disney’s account is different than the account of the Brothers Grimm.
Putting a child to bed is sometimes difficult at night. Night time is usually the moment where the kids needs their parents attention the most, while the parents use the time to rest and relax from their children. Bedtime stories offer a good median between the two.
Research has been done as well that shows having bedtime stories is also helpful for children with disabilities.
- Tatar, Maria (2009). Enchanted hunters. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN ISBN 978-0-393-06601-2.
- Tatar, Maria (1992). Off with their heads: fairytales and the culture of childhood. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-06943-3.
- Moore, P. S. (2004), The use of social stories in a psychology service for children with learning disabilities: a case study of a sleep problem. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 32: 133–138. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3156.2004.00278.x