An idea for the devoted community of parents, grandparents, family members, and caregivers who cannot be with your little darlings to tuck them in bed every night: send them love in absentia by reading a bedtime story over the phone!
This post is inspired by grandmother Pati Stoliar who initiated the nightly ritual as a way to maintain a close bond with her 10-year-old grandson, a “geocaching aficionado”. Reading to her grandson for 30 minutes before he falls asleep each night has become a favorite part of his day (and hers). His best-loved titles to date are chapter books See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.
“I love that we have this experience that only we share and relate back to.”
- Change voice intonation and expression according to mood of the story
- Use vocal variety for different characters (if within your repertoire)
- Match your voice to punctuation (e.g., period = pause, exclamation point = raise voice pitch, volume, etc.)
- For voice emulation ideas: listen to corresponding audiobook. Overdrive for eAudiobooks offers “Listen to a Sample” feature (example here)
- Use background music for special effect
- Hint from Pati: don’t have a glass of wine first or you will put yourself to sleep!
- Storyteller: sit comfortably with speaker phone at your side (or headset)
- Child: pajamas on, teeth brushed, snug in bed, speaker phone next to bed
Story selection tips
- Literature with a storyline (even if brief), length and complexity as developmentally appropriate (e.g., short stories or chapters for younger kids)
- Stories with child’s favorite genres and interests to provide comfort and appeal
- Feel-good or lighthearted tone (if preferred)
- Nonfiction titles for kids who favor books about tangible, concrete subjects rather than stories
- Complex storylines (dependent on reading comprehension skills)
- Scary/dark/violent or other off-limits content
- Books high on art and low on story
Head to your local library for assistance in selecting personalized books for phone reading. Browse this list of suggestions to get you started:
“At bedtime, preceding our nightly appointment, my grandson and his mother spend time reviewing ‘Two Good Things’ from his day. I was delighted to hear his mom report he nearly always includes what we affectionately call BIB (Books In Bed)!”
Video conferencing (using Skype or Google Hangout, for example) is another option for long-distance read-alouds. However, the internet-dependent calls are not as appropriate for bedtime stories, requiring eyes open, lights on, and stimulation from a screen. Not very conducive for sleep!
What a wonderful way to share love and a sense of security with your dears as they drift off to sleep. Add the boost to reading development and pleasure of story, and your only question may be when to start. Understandably, reading aloud over the phone may not suit all children, but if it works, cheers to you for helping to create a lifestyle of reading!
Thanks Pati for sharing!
Pati Stoliar has lived in Marin since 1977. She is the founder of Age-Friendly Corte Madera, a group that strives to create an optimal quality of life for all ages. Currently, they are working with the Town of Corte Madera to develop the first intergenerational center in the area. For many years she was an RN in the office of a local OB-GYN. Pati’s two daughters and her friends are jealous that she doesn’t read to them too!