Is This the End for the Bedtime Story?

The nighttime ritual seems to be fading fast, as activities and screens compete for family time. Here's how to make it happen.

Well, this is depressing: A survey from British retailer Littlewoods, reported in The Daily Mail, found that one-third of kids don’t get a story before bed at night. In fact, the average child gets a scant three stories a week, and only 64 percent of parents with kids under 7 read to them at all.

Why? A combination of factors is to blame. Half of the kids surveyed would rather watch TV, or play with toys or computer games than snuggle in for a story. Thirteen percent of parents say there’s just not enough time in the day, while 9 percent say they are just too stressed. In a sign of our times, 91 of parents said they were read to regularly as kids.

We get it: between school, jobs, homework, food prep, pets and extracurricular activities, bedtime always seems to arrive before you’ve had a chance to fit it all in. But if there’s one thing you should make time for in your day, reading is it. According to, a non-profit that promotes literacy, reading with your kids each day is the single most important thing parents can do to improve kids’ readiness for school.

If you’re one of the one-third not making it happen, don’t beat yourself up, but do try some of these ideas for fitting it in:

Behold the calming power of books. You say you don’t have time, but incorporating books into a nighttime routine is much more sleep-inducing than, say, video games. The time you save getting your kids settled down is most likely worth the 15 minutes you’d spend on books anyway.

Create a cozy spot. Reading can be a way to calm yourself down too. Designate a soothing spot like bed or a bean bag chair, take a deep breath, and try to block out everything else for just a bit.

Delegate. If you’ve got an older kid who’s coming into her own reading-wise, let her read to a younger sib. It totally counts as book time for both -- and leaves you free to tackle the dishes.

Do it halfway. If reading every night feels too daunting, remember that something is better than nothing. Aim to read every other night, or just on weekends when bedtimes can be a bit later.

Go for audiobooks. If all else fails (or as a way to get extra reading minutes in), audiobooks totally count as reading, and can be played when you’re running around the car or as your kid’s falling asleep.

Mom of two Sasha Emmons is a writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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