Useful time together. Close up of smiling mother and her adult son reading book, sitting on sofa

During the summer months, the sun rays still peak above the horizon as moms and dads are trying in vain to get their kids to bed at a decent hour. In July and August, the wind-down practice of reading a bedtime story takes on a whole new significance. This healthy ritual is also a practical tool to help get kids to fall asleep when they’d rather be playing outside. Since we’re all up a little later each evening anyway, summertime is the perfect season to mix it up a bit. If you find your clan tiring of the “I read, you listen” method, here are 5 new ways you can work a book into the bedtime routine while increasing the fun-factor (for everyone!)

Find a different spot. Is your usual seat on the couch in the living room, or at the edge of your child’s bed after tucking him in? While routines are great to establish because they set up lifetime habits, sometimes it can be fun to do something unusual. Tonight, try reading to your child while she’s sudsing in a warm bath. This gets two tasks done at once and the warm water helps induce a sleepy effect. Or why not read in sleeping bags on the floor, or under a blanket with a flashlight? Be creative, and help your child see that reading can be playful. Pick a theme and stick with it. If you’re randomly trying every book in the library, narrow down the options by choosing one topic and going with it for a while. This month, ask your librarian to pull some summer-themed illustrated books off the shelf and put them aside for you to pick up. Then each night before bedtime, read from the stack until you reach the bottom. When you read books focused on one topic that is connected to something relevant (hello, summer fun!) it makes the reading more appealing. Pre-judge the book. You know the saying, never judge a book by its cover? Well, that old saying is just that, old. You can and should make pre-judgements about a book based on the cover and the title (and then go ahead and read it together to see if you were right). Take a guess if the story will be funny, happy, sad or silly. Predict with your child what will happen based on the cover. Use this sentence starter, “I think ____________ will happen because ___________” Then as you read, decide if one or both of you are right or if somewhere along the way you need to change your prediction. Try a graphic novel. Yes, they are like comic books and YES, they make for awesome reading! Graphic novels are super popular today and even reluctant readers love them. It feels like you’re not even reading a book (but you are) and the stories can be entertaining. Not sure where to start? Disney has a line of graphic novels that you might like to try, with popular titles such as Space Mountain and Minnie and Daisy, Best Friends.   Up-level your book choices. So Harry Potter might be too hard for your child to read on his own yet, but it could be the perfect story for you to read to him. Try choosing some high interest chapter books that your child will love but can’t access by himself and read aloud a chapter a night. If the chapters are long, even a half a chapter will do – you can stop at a cliffhanger somewhere in the middle. Your child will get to hear some of the great books that older kids are reading (every young’un loves that!) and can also pick-up some key vocabulary along the way. Don’t worry about the lack of pictures either. A riveting story is told in words. Suggest your child closes her eyes and imagines the pictures instead. She’ll get to make the characters her own and she might actually fall asleep a little faster too!

Bedtime stories are critical for your child’s reading growth so don’t let boredom have you opting out. Keep mixing it up so excuses don’t get in the way of some quality read aloud time. Even just 10 minutes a night can have amazing benefits, and may even help everyone catch some shut eye.