My sister is two years older than I. She was a precocious reader, which presented something of a challenge when it came to storytime. We shared a room, so tucking us in one at a time wasn’t really a viable option. Instead, my mother tried to find bedtime reads that would entertain both of us without flying completely over my head. She made the choice not to shield us from tales full of conflict or loss, which can be a tough call. After all, folk tales are filled with murder and mayhem.
However, classics like The Chronicles of Narnia have stood the test of time because kids find the drama to be engaging. The downside of this school of thinking is that you risk being woken up in the middle of the night by a child fraught with nightmares. On the upside, studies show that exposure to high-level “rare” words promotes literacy and, unsurprisingly, higher vocabularies among children. (I have to agree with this finding—our SAT verbal scores were off the charts.) Plus, advanced books are much more interesting for the orator. Yes, you’re trying to put the kids to sleep, but if you go on autopilot reading the same Spiderman comic for the 15th time in a row, nobody’s having a good night.
Also, books broken up by chapters are great for reading in installations—every night’s a new cliffhanger. Start off storytime with a little refresher quiz on the previous night’s reading. It’ll help you gauge their enthusiasm for the text, plus participation is critical for absorption.
So, are you feeling ready to give folks like Dahl, Homer and C.S. Lewis a try? Click through the slideshow above for some of our favorite “sophisticated” bedtime stories for kids.