By Allegra Berry, Book Harvest summer operations intern
Anyone who works with small kids may be able to relate to my struggle of finding ways to help my charges reign in their energy. As a babysitter, I find that bedtime can be the make or break point of a child’s entire day. Knowing how much it personally upset me to be alone trying to go to sleep, I make a real effort to temper the battle that is bedtime. After sevenplus years of babysitting there is one activity I can consistently rely on. When the sleepiness starts to set in usually realized by me before the child is ready to admit they are succumbing to a day’s worth of playing I get to say the magical words, “hey, let’s choose a book we can read together!”
I was recently looking after two kids, Vivienne (2 yrs) and her older brother Finn (5 yrs). Per usual I rocked Vivienne as I read a few stories to her. Our routine soothes her to the point where I can put her into bed without any protest. Finn, who knows that he gets extra playtime oneonone, was excited to see me resurface from his sister’s room. We played our take on football interspersed with stories about his week Finn’s week at school. It was not long before I noticed Finn fighting off the dreaded heavy eyelids, a tell tale sign the night was drawing to an end. Although it took a little extra coaxing, Finn agreed to at least get into his pajamas.
Once we arrived in Finn’s bedroom we fell into our normal bedtime routine. He quickly threw on his pajamas, picked out two books he wanted to hear, and crawled into bed. We read the books, taking our time to enjoy the illustrations, and when we were done I turned off the light in preparation to leave. However before I could leave I heard a soft voice ask, “Allegra, could you tell me one more story?” Caught a little off guard, I said “sure, what do you want to hear?” Realizing he was on the verge of falling asleep I went to sit next to his bed to embark on another journey through story. I recited the whole story of the three little pigs from memory, even though I’m almost positive Finn was asleep half way through.
It was in this experience that I was reminded of the magic that lies in stories. It is not simply the routine that soothes little Vivienne or engages Finn’s imagination. What makes bedtime special is the ability for us to share one last moment before the day ends. Books allow us to be together and go on journeys without having to run around the house. Whether we are looking at the illustrations or reciting the story in the dark the result is the same. Our adventures together through stories make bedtime a more appealing and enjoyable part of the day. For kids like Finn it is easier to fall asleep mid adventure and for others it is crucial they see it through to the end. Either way it is a special journey that I will happily join them on when bedtime rolls around.