Recent studies have revealed that we are fast on our way to becoming a nation of sleep-deprived adults. I’m sure this is no surprise to most of us. I can say without hesitation that I am one of those sleep deprived adults. Just worrying about getting enough sleep is enough to keep you tossing and turning, but what really keeps me up at night is the fact that our children are becoming every bit as sleep deprived as we are. Busy schedules with too many activities are responsible in part, but a conversation I had with a first-grader the other day leads me to believe that there may be some other issues contributing to the problem.
I was encouraging a student to finish working on his writing assignment when he put his head down on his desk and said, “I’m too tired to work. I didn’t get any sleep last night.” I asked him if he went to bed later than usual and he shook his head. I then asked him when his bedtime was and he replied, “Right after CSI.”
It’s no wonder the poor kid can’t sleep with visions of autopsies and forensic evidence dancing in his head! Whatever happened to bedtime stories? My answer to that question could be found in the stack of handmade Christmas cards that I got from another group of first-graders with the sentiment, “Wii wish you a Merry Christmas” carefully printed on the front.
Many kids are spending that last hour before bedtime watching cartoons, movies or trying to get to one last level on their video games. They are so over-stimulated that getting into bed and falling asleep seems like an impossible task often resulting in that all too familiar cry, “Just 10 more minutes? Pleeeese?”
If you’re looking for a way to make the transition from playtime to bedtime a little less frustrating, look no further than your local library. Try turning off the computer, TV and Xbox during that last half hour before your child’s bedtime and have them settle down with a great book. Better yet, snuggle up with them. Author Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrator Michael Emberley have a series of books that are perfect for just that. “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” is a series of four delightful poetry picture books that combine colorful cartoon-like illustrations with playful, rhyming stories written for two voices. The sentences are color coded to indicate who reads each part with a third color for portions that you read together. Whether you read all of the parts aloud to pre-readers or take turns reading aloud with older children, even the most reluctant readers will enjoy the rhythm of the poetry and the humorous take on everything from scary stories to fairy tales. While these books are geared to the younger reader, (ages 4-8) kids of all ages seem to love a chance to read aloud with another person and the delightfully silly poems can provide comic relief after a long and stressful day and who couldn’t use a bit of that?
Reading to older kids, especially those who are not inclined to pick up a book on their own, can be a great way to introduce your child to the vast array of literary characters and stories just waiting to be plucked from the shelves. Choose a book with a reading level that is somewhat higher than the level your child is currently reading at. This will allow them to be exposed to books that other kids at school may be talking about, regardless of their reading ability. Reading aloud to your child will also expose you to all of the great children’s and young adult literature out there. You may be surprised at how enjoyable these books are to adults.
So tonight, give it a try. Set the DVR to record CSI, disconnect the computer and re-connect with your child. Chances are you’ll both sleep a little easier.
Rhonda Miller is a library secretary at Victor Falls Elementary School in the Sumner School District.