I’m reading a fantastic book about children’s development my daughter’s Waldorf teacher lent us. It’s Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our children from birth to seven by Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley (Michaelmas, 2000). This book is helping me reimagine how we live and work as a family.
This morning I read the chapter on play and there is something the authors included that I can’t out of my head. The literacy specialist in me was completely taken aback by the following passage:
“There is a lot I could say about books. But basically, children love to be read to and love to hear stories told to them. It is good to have some books with pictures and some without. Children like the opportunity to picture their own scenes, to do their own internal imagining. At night, don’t read too many books in a row before bedtime because there will be too many images in their heads. It can give children a kind of mental indigestion that they take into their sleep. It is very rewarding to alternate story reading with storytelling, either from your own adventures as a child or from a tale you have taken the time to memorize (69).”
It never occurred to me to that multiple books before bedtime would fill a child’s head with too many images. I try to read Isabelle three books before bedtime. Sometimes she’s not in the mood and we only get through one. Other times she keeps handing me board books and picture books out of her book baskets to the point where I have to say, “just one more,” before putting her down for the night. I can’t imagine limiting the picture book reading we do now or in the future unless I do some additional research to support the author’s assertion.
That being said, I know that watching television and using a computer before bedtime (as an adult) can interfere with sleep. There was a recent article in The NY Times about this. Even though I’ve never thought of books with pictures before bedtime as a way of causing “mental indigestion” in children, there is something important to glean from what is said in the book. If my child were having sleep issues (which I’m thankful she doesn’t have and hope she never will), then I would consider limiting. However, if one’s child is sleeping well, why limit books before bedtime?