When Bedtime Reading Makes You Bonkers

bedtime reading, make it a habit

Let's talk about bedtime.

We all know what we are supposed to do at bedtime. Bedtime is when we snuggle up with our children and read a stack of fantastic books. It is peaceful and calm, and your heart is overflowing with joy…

... except when it isn't.

I don't know about you, but bedtime is often a chaotic blur around these parts.

After dinner, I send my three upstairs to take a bath and brush their teeth, but there is nothing peaceful about this routine. As soon as those little feet hit the stairs, the shenanigans start.

Despite my pleas to calm down and prepare for bedtime stories, my children run amok. They laugh and giggle, run and jump, and all too often, there are tears. Because let's face it: tired children running wild often results in boo-boos and hurt feelings.

When I finally manage to get my trio cleaned up in and their jammies, I am exhausted and exasperated.

And yet I pick up that bedtime story. Because it's what we're supposed to do as parents and especially as homeschool parents.

When You Don't Like Bedtime Reading

It's no surprise that, at this point, the bedtime reading doesn't feel peaceful. So much time has been wasted with shenanigans and tears that we barely have time for a couple of picture books much less an entire stack of books. All too often, my children bicker over my selection, for sibling squabbles peak at bedtime. The bedtime story feels frazzled, rushed. My heart is not overflowing with joy. Instead, I sneak glances at the clock, summarize exceptionally long passages, stifle yawns, and desperately await the moment I can tuck each child in and close their bedroom doors.

Each night, as I slowly descend our stairs, I feel guilty. I know how important it is to read aloud to children. As a lifelong reader, my goal is to raise children who love to get lost in a book, children who seek knowledge, children who are inspired by what they read.

Every evening, I vow to do better the next day. And yet the cycle continues.

I know I'm not alone.

Reading is Not Optional; Bedtime Reading is

Here is what I want you to know: If bedtime reading is giving you the blues, it's okay to stop.

Yes, I am giving you permission to ditch the bedtime stories. You can ditch them for a night, ditch them for a few months, or ditch them forevermore. It's okay, trust me.

Several months ago, after far too many bedtime blues, I had a revelation: read alouds are important all the time, not just between the evening hours of 6 and 8.

The most important thing is that you read to your children, but that reading doesn't have to happen during the most challenging time of day.

It was at that point that I decided to change our routine. Instead of saving our read alouds for the end of the day, I reversed it. I now begin our morning with a cup of coffee (for me) and a stack of books. We are a family of morning people and it made sense to read aloud when we were fresh. Immediately, I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. There was even some peace and joy thrown in there, too.

When Bedtime Reading Makes You BonkersHere are some ideas for scheduling your read aloud time:

  • Read during breakfast

  • Read before or after lunch

  • Read before or after a quiet time 

  • Read outdoors in the sunshine

  • Read aloud while your children play or doodle

  • Read aloud just before dinner, before the nightly chaos ensues

The important thing is to find what works for your family.

You might be wondering what to do just before bedtime, during the time when you used to read aloud. Here are some ideas for filling the bedtime hour:

  • Listen to a favorite audiobook together

  • Play peaceful music

  • Enjoy a podcast together

  • Play a calming CD to inspire mindfulness

Or, you could give each of your children their own booklight and send them to bed with a stack of books as a way to calm down. This strategy works well in my house!

When it comes to parenting, there is no rule book. We often feel like we need to do certain things a particular way, but each family is unique. If your bedtime routine is giving you the blues, just stop. You'll be so glad you did!

About the Author

Caitlin Curley

Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies.