The Ritual of Reading

by Sara Legatt

bedtimestories_1356045cTonight is one of my work nights, which means that it will be my husband’s turn to read bedtime stories with our three children. It won’t matter to the children, but I will miss the time usually spent cuddled up with clean, cozy children at the end of the day.

My kids are now in the legs-and-arms stage; the difference in our heights is rapidly shrinking and they are learning again how to navigate their growing bodies through the world. At bedtime, though, they shrink. Their T-shirts and flannel pants become footie sleepers. Their big-kid questions sound like baby lisps. Time and age disappear, and I can see them for the sweet babies they were, as well as the growing children I love today.

We started our family’s bedtime story ritual when our oldest was just home from the hospital. We rotated through a small stack of board books, but the words weren’t nearly as important as the ritual. Our soothing voices, our gentle touch, and the soft, warm blankets we cuddled under were what made story time important.

Many people talk about the importance of reading with children for 30 minutes every day, but it can feel like one more thing to do. One more chore to cross off the list, one more “should” we’re ignoring.

If your family doesn’t have a bedtime story ritual, take it off your “should” list. Sit with your back to the clock so you can’t wonder whether you’ve hit 30 minutes yet. Clear your bookshelves of the books you simply cannot stand to read once more. Ignore the nagging feeling of ignored New Year’s Resolutions, and focus instead on having a few minutes to spend doing nothing but sitting close to your child.

Let your child choose a stack of books if he is young, or try reading through a chapter book together if she is a bit older. Even if your child is already at the legs-and-arms stage himself, the magic of losing yourselves in another world while cuddled together remains. It is not too late to start reading together.

It won’t take long to discover the vast difference between a reading to-do list and a reading ritual. And hug those kids close. Like all stages, this one will pass too soon.

Sara Legatt lives in Minnesota with her husband, three young children, and one clumsy cat that thinks it is a dog. Sara has a B.A. in Elementary Education, has worked for more than a decade as an Early Childhood Educator, and is a Piano Teacher to the best students in the world. Sara currently writes middle grade novels and picture books. She can be found at

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