Looking Back: Do parents still read their children bedtime stories?

Do you remember sitting with your children, listening to ‘Jackanory?’ Anyone over 50 will get a sudden rush of nostalgia. Some programmes are an indelible part of childhood and that was one of them. There were many presenters, becoming a phenomenal success, and running for 3,500 editions from 1965.

The BBC had decided that older children were missing out on traditional storytelling, thinking that even in the mid-60s, parents had less time to read to their children. Reading your children a bedtime story is part of their childhood and invokes many happy and priceless memories of sleepy children, with gradually drooping eye lids, but still with the capacity to know if you’ve skipped any of the words.

Storytelling has always encouraged reading and it was feared in the early days of television that watching it would prevent them from wanting to read. But Jackanory had a really positive effect. Books featured on the show were requested by hundreds of children up and down the country from their local library

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The books read included ‘The Hobbit’, ‘Emil and The Detectives’, ‘Paddington’, ‘Brer Rabbit’, ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ and everything by Roald Dahl. Spike Milligan was a popular presenter, but one of the most prolific was ‘Carry On’ star Kenneth Williams who had a wonderful range of voices.

The biggest coup was the appearance of Prince Charles in 1984 reading his own story ‘The old man of Lochnagar’. It was a sad day when the last story was read by Alan Bennett and befittingly one of our childhood’s favourite stories, ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ by AA Milne.

Unfortunately, today we are raising generations of children who don’t understand the value of literature, mostly because their parents don’t read and so don’t encourage them to do so.

How many people do you know who only read a book when on holiday. How many use the local library or say they haven’t time to read, or they are too tired, or that it’s boring.

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I’m afraid that before long, beautiful classics like ‘Black Beauty’ or ‘Treasure Island’ will be relegated to GCSE English Literature syllabuses and our children and grandchildren will never read their way through the works of Charles Dickens as I did when I was young.

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