new year - new (bedtime) routine!
New year - new (bedtime) routine
Ending the day right side up, even when the world feels upside down.
For nearly a year we’ve seen almost all of our routines upended. We’ve felt loss. We’ve felt freedom. And many feelings in between.
Typically, as a writer and literacy specialist I tout the powerful and enduring routine of bedtime stories. I recount the long-term benefits of filling kid’s last minutes of wakefulness with language and listening.
But during these challenging times, I’ve been seldom able to focus long enough to read much of anything! When I do summon the energy, I reach for a crossword, or escape into an entertainment newsfeed, or heck, a delivery menu.
And when it comes to reading to my kids at bedtime? Uhhhh…My vision is haggard, I’m devoid of creative energy, I’m zapped from the news of the world, and definitely done with decision making. And I know I’m not the only one.
So, instead I offer you my new, top three, bedtime story work arounds.
First off; Go wordless! Limited word picture books rely on images to tell the tale -like a silent film. Often peaceful, contemplative, and certainly humorous. They are great way to discover inventive, and often international, authors and illustrators. Including the likes of as Shaun Tan, Orvind Torsetter, Suzy Lee and Regis Faller (all inspiration for my own work in this genre on The Whale and Zero Local).
Second; When you can’t beam in other family to take over story time, try outsourcing it to a podcast. I recently partnered with the wonderful team at Grown Ups Read Princess Stories on a few episodes. Their inclusive and insightful collection of, voice talent, and stories from around the world, will keep you in content for months.
Lasty, go for some word play. Read a list of Knock Knock jokes from your phone. Listen to a song from the soundtrack of your favourite musical; Lion King, Matilda, Harry Potter, Newsies, Wicked, Into the Woods to name a few. Or if you want a screen break, lend your voice to my favourite compound word game from my teaching days.
Now say it again but don’t say Cow.
Now say it again, but don’t say Rain!
You can go on and on with words like riverbank, steamboat, dancehall, dragonfly, beanbag, whatever strikes your fancy!
And just like that, you’ll have offered your littles; a supportive routine to help them feel safe. Laughter and togetherness to let them know they are loved. And set everyone up for a nice night’s sleep.
Vita Murrow is veteran non-profit administrator, educator, writer and artist. Her experience spans heading regional literacy programs, teaching as a literacy specialist, and educational film and television. She holds an M.S Ed from the Bank Street College of Education in New York City, and a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.
Vita publishes with Quarto Group and Magic Cat in the UK, and Candlewick Press in the US. Her recent feminist fairy tale retellings “High Five to the Hero" & "Power to the Princess” were celebrated as "Brilliant." By Kirkus Reviews.
Together with her husband Artist Ethan Murrow, Vita is the co-creator of Two Murrows Productions and the short film "Dust," (official selection in the 46th annual New York Film Festival). Their children’s book debut, “The Whale”, was nominated for a CILIP Greenway Medal. Their recent title “Zero Local" has been nominated for a 2021 ALSC Notable Children's Book award.