Making children go to bed early can be a challenge for many parents, who know that a productive day at school begins with a good night’s sleep. One of the easiest and funniest ways to make children want to go to bed is by rewarding them with a bedtime story before sleeping. This will help them develop their intellect and share in family time as well.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2004 Sleep in America poll, 69 percent of children aged 10 and younger have at least one sleep problem – they only sleep an average 9.5 hours a day, even when experts recommend 10 to 11 hours of sleep every day. Watching too much television and playing video games are some of the reasons why children don’t get enough sleep, as well as the increase of caffeine intake, that leads to bad moods, memory loss, attention deficiency, and weight gain.
In an attempt to help Hispanics acquire healthy and beneficial habits for their children, such as storytelling and drinking milk at night before sleeping, acclaimed storyteller and children’s book author Antonio Sacre (A Mango in the Hand and La Noche Buena – A Christmas Story), has joined the California Milk Processor Board’s Toma Leche campaign to create eight bilingual stories that prompt early bedtime.
Sacre talked to HuffPost Voces about this initiative, and how reading can help children.
Why do you think reading is important for children?
As a parent of two, reading is part of our daily routine. We read at different times every day and we always read before going to bed. The first story is for pure fun. My son gets excited when it is reading time. He grabs his teddy bear, jumps into bed, and lies beside me. I really enjoy those moments with him and it helps create a special bond between us. But as a professional storyteller and author for the last 20 years, I have read studies and polls that confirm that reading helps children learn languages, as well as comprehension skills and vocabulary. I also know that my fondness for reading has enriched my life and I want to make sure my kids have that gift, too.
How important do you think bedtime stories are for families?
I have seen how a good book or story at bedtime has helped my son go from a fun and hectic day to a good night’s sleep. Bedtime stories can help an active kid calm down, and at the same time it helps them build their vocabulary and have a better understanding of the world around them.
How can a good bedtime story help a child sleep?
This may sound funny, but a good bedtime story is the one your kid likes. It doesn’t matter how many words the book has, how many awards it has received, or how good the illustrations are. If your child doesn’t like the book, it won’t work. At this point, I believe it is very important to have many books all over the house. I visit the library on a weekly basis, and I make sure that there are tons of books available for my son, both in English and Spanish.
Why do you think parents should read to their children before sleeping?
I see these moments at night, when my son asks me to read him a story, as a precious gift that won’t last long. He will soon ask for the car keys, or to stay late with some friends instead of asking for another story. Whenever I remind other parents to read to their children, I remind myself of enjoying this beautiful, but sometimes hectic time that I spend with my beloved little one.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
The three children’s books that I have written have been directly inspired by stories I would listen to when I was young and by the desire of sharing those memories, teachings, and stories with a bigger audience… When I share these memories all over the country, I hope I can inspire people to share their own stories with their families. I would like to emphasize that remembering, telling and listening to family stories is not only fun, but also helps children develop their vocabulary and build family memories that your children will remember for many years. Someday, they might turn those stories into children stories.
What is your greatest satisfaction when telling stories to children?
When a group of children laugh naturally or gesture the same way I do when I tell stories, I feel that I am in the right place at the right time. I truly appreciate that I can do what I like. I also lovel when some student approaches me and talks about their grandmothers and the stories they heard at home. I also feel glad when a student says she wants to be a writer when she grows up.
In what way do you think our Latino culture can be seen and taught through bedtime stories to our children?
At bedtime, without any distractions, we have the opportunity to have our children near us. By sharing our memories and our grandparents’ teachings, wisdom, and humor, we give our children something they won’t find in libraries or on the Internet. I hope they listen to this in Spanish, with the riddles, jokes, and lullabies that were very commonly told by our grandparents, but that we are losing with our children.
The eight stories, “The Waves on the Moon,” “Thirsty Carlitos,” “A Day with Pedro,” “Elena the Slurping Monkey,” “Benito the Grumpy Elephant,” “The Lake’s Secret,” “Dante’s Monstrous Monsters,” and “White Downpour” are available for download for free at otroscuentos.com.