Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How to get your bookworms kids to stop reading after lights off?

Now, remember my earlier post on Start Reading Young aka The How To Get Kids To Love Reading Since Young post? Well, if you succeeded in making your kids love reading and love books, you may have a happy problem on your hands! How to get kids to stop reading when it is time to sleep?! One of my close friends just asked this question in a group chat that was filled with mummies of young children, yours truly included. My friend's child is very young, just about 22 months old. I have tried the following ways with my three children, and my eldest is currently 6 years old.
Set a Limit - know your child's habits!
As mentioned in the Start Reading Young post, we often have to go through a "bargaining process" with the kids. Do this at the beginning, before you start reading to the kids. Look at the time, gauge how many books you can read, and propose a number. This number depends on how much time you have, and on the character of your child/children... 

For example, when Isaac was young and we still read books to him, he would be fine if we said 3 books. A short bargaining session later, we may end up agreeing to 4 books. We read the 4 books, say lights off, and he is okay, because he understands that we had an agreement, and he abides by it. Same for Shawna.

But Asher is another kind. He would smile and beguile you with his mesmerising eyes to get you to read one more book, and one more book, and one last book - and all this is after you already read to him the agreed 4 books! So, now we know how to deal with him... Say we have time for 5 books:

Me:"Okay, let's read 3 books tonight! Then we switch off the lights, and sleep!"
Asher:"No! Read 5 books!!!"
Me:"It's late! 3 is enough!"
Asher:"No! 5 is more enough!!!"
Me:"Okay, let's compromise at 4 books!"
Asher:"What is compromise?"
Me:"Er, that means we both give in, and agree to a middle number. 4 is enough."
Asher:"Hmmm okay 4 is enough."

After reading the 4 books, Asher puppy-eyes us and begs for one more book...
Me:"One LAST book ah... then we sleep!"
Asher:"Yes, 5 is enough!"
Me:"So one last book, correct?"
Me:"Are you absolutely sure?!"
Asher:"Yes, Mummy! Just read!!!"

And so you know, yes, I sometimes start bargaining at 1 book - when we only have time for 3... Or at zero books, when we only have time for 1 or 2....

Pre-empt! Pre-empt! Pre-empt!
Remember how, as a child, you're reading some exciting novel, and mum comes in, says "Bed time!" and just switches off the light? That is just plain annoying. And similarly, the kids don't like to suddenly stop whatever it is they are doing either - be it reading, or doing a craft work or playing a game. So what we found very useful to us, is to pre-empt the child/children. We tell them things like:

"We're leaving soon!"
"When you're done playing this round, we have to stop!"
"I'm going to bathe now, when I come out of the bedroom, we have to go!" 

We start to tell them such things as early as half an hour before we need to really go. And we say it repeatedly. It's naggy, yes. But this gets them mentally prepared to go. And it's easier to get them out of the house / or stop their activity, when it is time to do so.

In particular with books and reading, we say this:
"Okay, end of book one. Two more books to go!"
"Now, we're going to start reading the LAST book! After this book, lights off, sleep!!!"
And during the reading of the last book "After this book, sleep ah?" for like at least 5 times!!!

Maintain Your Stand!
If you have a real stubborn bookworm on your hands, he or she may start throwing a tantrum and demand for more books when you stop reading. A particularly tenacious one I heard of even got down from the bed, took books and started flipping the pages - in the dark! Some go on milk strikes - refusing to drink if you didn't continue reading. Sorry guys, I'm afraid you'd just have to maintain your stand, and stop reading after the promised number of books. The kids are merely trying to test your limits and push their boundaries. Tell them firmly:"Mummy is very happy that you love to read books, but if you don't sleep, your eyes and brain cannot rest, and then you won't be able to read any more books! Let's read more tomorrow!"

Tell a story - in the dark!!
Fortunately (must look on the bright side, you know), I have kids who really love reading. So one trick I get them to settle down and not throw a tantrum during lights off time - is to promise to tell them a story after lights off - provided they lie down and close their eyes. Just use any fairy tale you're familiar with, and tell an elongated version of it. Usually, the kids are really tired and after listening with their eyes closed - they drop off pretty quickly. Sometimes, when I am tired, I will sing to them in the dark instead - it's easier to autopilot sing a song than to tell a story, I've found! 

Leave it to them
I have found that you especially need to maintain your stand, when the kids are very young. Nowadays, the kids are bigger, and so I tend to reason with them more. And I give them the choice of reading on their own if they want to. I will switch on a small light (ours is a desk lamp seated on the floor in a corner), and say "You can continue reading, if you want to. But don't read for too long, or you will be very tired tomorrow morning. It is your choice. Switch off the light when you're done." Usually, they will read for awhile, switch off the light, and come to bed.

Of course, inevitably, Isaac once read too late into the night and pay for it the next day. He would be tired and lethargic from lack of sleep. I will take this opportunity to remind him the entire day that he feels this way because he slept late the night before. This happened once or twice, and it seldom ever happens now. 

If the kids have a big day coming up the next day, be sure you remind them about it. "It's your choice. If you want to stay up late reading, you may wake up late tomorrow and miss going for the party... or worse, go there, and be soooo crankly and shout at all your friends, because you're tired. Oh no." *shake*head" "But of course, it's your choice. You decide." these are my tricks to get them to sleep. What about you? Share your tricks! :)

This post can hardly be sponsored by The Groovy Giraffe - probably the cheapest online bookstore you can find in Singapore - since they presumably wouldn't want kids to stop reading?! But since we have a coupon code to share anyway, we'd just plonk the badge here, for easy reference, you fellow parents of bookworms! :)


  1. good tips to help us along the way to putting my kids on a reading journey !!
    Started the journey already, really just need to be consistent.
    Kids have so many things to do before they want to sleep ! gosh.. plus i've to put my younger one 18 months to sleep before i can join the older one in her reading. gosh. tough to balance since their age gap is far.

    i've tried reading to both at same time and the younger one with shorter attention span went off to do other stuff or worse might tear a book.

    maybe i'll throw her some of her board or cloth books in her cot while i read to the older one beside, you reckon?

    thanks for the many tips Pam, keep writing !
    oh and yes i've done my first purchase of 2 sets of books at Groovy, very satisfied with it indeed !
    And one of the set is the Berenstain bears (which you mention in one of your blog its of good moral values and yes indeed, very good !! will buy more if more sets on Groovy !)


  2. I don't have this problem for now - still trying to get my little one into the hobby of reading (or flipping books). My problem is getting her to sleep after her bedtime stories. She bargains with us every night for MORE stories!


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