A change in culture or a failure of memory and a glorification of the past?

From Great Britain:

A bedtime story used to be a way for children and parents to bond at the end of the day, but the tradition has undergone a dramatic decline in a single generation.

A poll of 2,000 mothers with children aged 0-7 years, carried out by the clothing and homeware retailer Littlewoods, highlighted the extent of the change. Only 64% of respondents said they read their children bedtime stories, even though 91% were themselves read bedtime stories when young.

The survey also found that in previous generations, parents who read bedtime stories did so more regularly than their modern counterparts. Only 13% of respondents read a story to their children every night, but 75% recall being read to every night when they were kids. On average, today’s parents read bedtime stories to their children three times a week.

The findings are all the more surprising since 87% of those polled believe that bedtime reading is vital to children’s education and development.

The poll discovered that 9% feel “too stressed” to read bedtime stories; 13% admit that they haven’t enough time.

There is more here.


Hypothesis 1: It's because people generally read less these days.
Hypothesis 2: It's because women now like their children less despite, or because of, having fewer of them.
Hypothesis 3: It's because women are busy with their own bedtime story, "Fifty Shades of Gray".

How many of the respondents are simply remembering a rosier picture of their childhood than really happened?

More plausible explanation than Evil Wimmin.

And what of dads?

I read to my youngest almost every single night. Did the survey even ask if someone else in the household read to kids?

The title is quite correct. The study would have been more useful if they looked at mothers with kids between ages 0-7 and also mothers with kids ages 25-32.

I love it when people say they don't have "enough time" to do x or y ... maybe if they would have "enough time" if they watched less TV or spend less time on Facebook

Or reading MR.

Doesn't everyone get 24 hours per day? When someone says that they "don't have time" to do something, what they're really saying is: "I choose to do something else."

Perhaps it's a result of more single parent families. I read to my toddlers almost every night. It's doubtful if my wife would have time to read to them nearly as much as I do if she were raising them by herself.

That's got to be part of it. I wonder if that and faulty memories makes up the bulk of the "change"

I agree these "changes" could partly reflect poor survey design which relies on distant recall of activities in childhood. A repeated cross section that is nationally representative (like the one in Trends section of this link: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=reading-to-young-children) should be more accurate.

There could be a mix-shift going on too: more working mothers, more children living in poverty (single parent homes), and less culture of reading among adults. All of which lower the propensity to read to young children.

But are the trends if they are such, really bad? I started TC's AIO and it says that the successful will work well with computers. Maybe I should let my three-year old play more with my iPad and read less at bedtime ... or not, I am not convinced that reading to children is only about reading habits, I think it's more about one-on-one social interaction and teaching healthy routines.

The British achieved a remarkably high level of average behavior by the late Victorian period and maintained it for several generations. But the old ways have been out of fashion for several decades, as can be seen by comparing Britain's white working class to America's white working class in rates of binge drinking, crime (such as burglary and assault, but not homicide), and illegitimacy.

You think that these bed time story stats would be particularly different for the US??

What are the stats for the US?

If you look at the actual stats rather than bedtime stories, you find that per capita violence and drinking are falling slowly over time.

As a member of a baby-sitting circle I sometimes tried to read bedtime stories to an energetic little girl who never would consent to listen. Some years later she graduated second in her class at Oxford. Obviously her bedtime impatience cost her the top spot.

This seems like a small thing, but it is a significant loss. I have to check with my daughter to see if she and her husband have started to read bedtime stories to our granddaughter. If not, I have to start showing up more, or reading over FaceTime.

My toddler insists of a minimum of 4 books. I'm surprised at the lack of tails wagging the dog - we can't get him to bed without his books.

I read to my son until he was 7 or so. I enjoyed the idea of the experience, but the actual experience itself, on the margin, was not particularly enjoyable, the kids stories are too simple to enjoy and kids enjoy repetition more than adults. I was glad when he was able to start reading himself.

Is there a decline in reading or not to your kids? I would bet the opposite actually. People worked a lot harder in the olde days, and there is a lot more emotionalism around kids than there ever was. The British love this self castigation, and false nostalgia. This gives them an excuse to tut-tut and feel superior, so there is an endless demand for these kind of stories. In actual fact, the British are still one of the most conventionally moralistic nations in the world, on a par with white southern US, but without the religion.

It's a lot more fun if you read your kids something a little more complicated, like _The Hobbit_ or _The Jungle Book_ or _The Wizard of Oz_. This is stuff they might not be ready to read themselves for a couple of years after they are able to read themselves the sort of simple board books that kids usually start out with.

Tried that. My daughter took the longer books, read them alone, and still wanted me to read Pinkalicious to her.

My son was too young at 7 to read such books as the Hobbit, or my personal favorite, Wind in the Willows, he just didn't have the attention span. Now he is 9 he is a voracious reader like I was (and still am) and he had read what I think of the classics, I load his Kindle up with the ones I think he will like. It's amazing to me that stories that were written long ago and with such a totally different culture to today can still resonate with children today, like the Railway Children or Heidi. Even the Enid Blyton famous five stories, the writing is atrocious but she really knew her audience.

Not sure I believe the statistics. My parents never read to me - although my mother occasionally told stories. We read to our children almost every night.

A second opportunity in a short while to properly allocate blame for my marginal success in life: My mother never read me bedtime stories! :-(

Let's get with the parenting skills, people.

As I read this, it occurred to me that this gap could be filled by the "grandmother network" that it turns out Arnold Kling mentioned in his review of "Average is Over". Of course, some will argue that a parent reading better, but we shouldn't let perfect, stop good.

Real-time might be problematic but Youtube videos of a "grandma" reading could be used.

Steven Levitt reports in _Freakonomics_ that having books in the house correlates with better future outcomes for children but actually reading to them has no statistical impact.

I'd bet that having books on an ereader locked with a password the child does not know is as... "effective".

But a really bright, enterprising child will have shoulder-surfed the password.

Of course this doesn't prove correlation, having books in the house could mean that you just are genetically cleverer and more disposed to reading.

Judith Rich Harris does a good job (with actual research and statistics) in demolishing a lot of the myths around nurturing parents being able to change their children's personalities, basically no impact within the normal range of parenting, As Bryan Caplan points out, we would all be better off if we forgot the guilt about bad parenting.

I remember my father reading to me, King Solomon's Mines, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Captain Blood perhaps.

Bedtime stories are important. I read to my kids, not every night, but at least 5 times per week. The times I don't are usually because the kids stayed up later than me. My kids are 10 and 8 and I've been reading to them since they were babies. Great way to wind down for the night and have some good conversation with them as well. I highly recommend it.

One thing that HAS changed completely from when I was growing up is dinner time. In my grandparents generation, dinner was a formal event, begun with saying grace, with appropriate table manners enforced and no one leaving the table until being excused after enjoying the meal cooked from scratch. When I was growing up, everyone still met at the table and started with grace, but more casual/relaxed while eating, sometimes prepared foods. With my kids now, we try to wrangle everyone to the table at once but it doesn't always work. Someone may still be in the shower, getting dressed, etc. No grace before the meal, people get up to get things from the kitchen or whatnot during the meal, and just get up when they're finished.

I'm glad we have the bedtime ritual. Dinners have lost their significance in our family over the generations.

"That! Is!! Not!!! My!!!! Cow!!!!!"

Terry Pratchett's book "Thud" contains what is possibly the most epic bedtime reading of a story to a child ever.

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My elder daughter is 13 and I still read with her most days of the week, sometimes me reading and sometimes she reading. Beats the hell out of watching television.

I think this is more an example of selective memory than of declining bedtime stories. My mother read me bedtime stories, but I can hardly recall if it was "every night" or just "three times a week". Naturally, I only remember the times that she DID read me a story, because on the other nights there wasn't anything particularly memorable to remember.
I do occasionally remember going to bed after a late night movie having my dad carry me up the stairs and tuck me in, though. Or having someone give me a kitten to cuddle. So I'm pretty sure it wasn't every single night.

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