6 Fresh Ideas to Make Bedtime Reading (a Lot) More Fun

Tim Thornborough | November 21st 2018

There’s a telling scene in the Spielberg classic move Hook. The hero’s children have been kidnapped by the pirate captain, who tries to poison their minds against their parents. In true snake-like fashion, he tells them a lie wrapped up in a truth.

Maggie Banning: “My Parents read to me every night because they love me!”

Captain Hook (with pitying glances): “They don’t read to you because they love you—they read to you to stupefy you, and get you off to sleep … they tell you stories to shut you up.”

That will resonate with most sleep deprived parents… but it’s still a lie (I hope).

A Very Noisy Christmas

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A fun re-telling of the Christmas story for young children, including regular invitations to make some noise!

Reading to your children or grandchildren—especially at bedtime—can be some of the most magical, nurturing and precious times you spend with your young ones. It’s not only an opportunity to wind down and get kids in the mood to sleep. It’s also a time they ask questions, get introduced to new ideas, and listen to your voice as you read to them—fairy tales, folk tales and — of course, Bible stories.

But story time at night or at any other time of the day is an opportunity for so much more than passive listening. It can be a time for participation; involvement; laughter and sadness, seriousness and silliness.

When I sat down to write a Christmas story, I had this idea firmly in mind. That reading can be fun and enjoyable, with lots of laughter and action. A very noisy Christmas started with the observation that although the first Christmas was a Holy Night, as the miracle of the incarnation came to fruition, but it definitely couldn’t have been a Silent Night. Anyone who has been near a maternity ward knows that. So, although there are moments in the book where you need to be softly spoken, there are times to shout out as loudly as you possible can. Here are some other things that children find inexplicably funny:

  1. Contrasts. Loud and quiet is fun; but so is silly and serious; fast and slow; big and little. Contrasts are everywhere in stories. So when telling, for example, the story of David and Goliath, jump around and act big and small by turns, or develop a big deep voice for Goliath, and a high little voice for David.

  2. Silly voices. Kids (and adults) love a silly voice—so work at using accents and quirky ways of reading things. The disciples all came from Galilee in the north of Israel, so why not read their lines from the Bible in a broad Northern accent—Yorkshire, Detroit, or even Canadian…

  3. Faces. One of the important things stories do is teach children emotional intelligence. How do the characters feel in this story? What am I supposed to feel hearing it? Why not stop and ask everyone to make the kind of face for the feeling in the story. That will be the basis of a story we are releasing for Easter next year

  4. Getting it wrong. Children love hearing stories over and over again. Sometimes they know them so well, they are almost singing along with you. So much fun then, to get it wrong. “And David threw the stone, and it missed, and Goliath chopped off his head with a big Sword. The End” NOOOOOOOOOOOO! (howls of protest from outraged children). I found getting it wrong really helped them focus more clearly on the facts of a story.

  5. Nonsense words. Silly language always goes down a treat—especially if you can work in words like poopy, plop and stinkybum. And Goliath said to David: “Hoogle-smoogle dibble dabble poopyplop blibblyblabblebottyboop!” Oh hang on a minute, that’s what he said in Philistine — let me translate for you…” (howls of laughter).

  6. Acting out. This needn’t involve learning lines and running around the room, but if you just assign characters to a child, or a group of children — you can help them get into the action more effectively, as they read out the words they say. It’s also enormous fun when it goes wrong. Repeatedly.

Of course there will be times when it’s right to do gentle wind-down stories. To stupefy them. And to read to them just to shut them up. But try out some of these ideas, and bedtime will never be quite the same again...

A Very Noisy Christmas is a fun re-telling of the Christmas story for young children, including regular invitations to make some noise! It's perfect for reading in Christmas family services or giving as a Christmas gift to young children. Buy it here

Tim Thornborough

Tim Thornborough is the founder and Publishing Director of The Good Book Company. He is series editor of Explore Bible-reading notes, and has contributed to many books published by the Good Book Company and others. He is married to Kathy and has three adult daughters.

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