One of the most intense moments for a mother or father is the children’s bedtime; I should make it clear that it’s not because of their tantrums, screaming and running around as they refuse to get into bed (even though that’s something to do with it). Nor will I mention the number of times you’ll end up staying awake during the night, although if you’re lucky you’ll sleep all the way through. Only if you’re lucky.
I don’t want to overstate the importance of the moment of going to bed, everyone has their own reality, but I’d like to talk to you about the minutes prior to sleep, a moment of intimacy and magic with our children capable of carrying us off to a world full of adventures and fantasy... I’m referring to the bedtime story, viewed as an imaginary journey during which we invite our children to dream while they’re still awake.
This is one of the moments of the day we most look forward to, and it’s not just me who says it. You only have to see the kiddies’ faces when they ask: Will there be a story today? For some parents being with them at bedtime is quite a privilege. Those who reach the end of the day exhausted begin by answering “I’m really tired today, let’s leave it until tomorrow” but finally give in. Whatever your own circumstances are, I’m sure that once you’re sitting next to that little character who looks at you with such tenderness, cuddles you and listens to you in rapt attention, the tiredness fades and gives way to a moment of unique emotional proximity. During these moments of intimacy, you wonder when this creature, so much a part of you, will cease to be so.
A few days ago, I read a very interesting article about the benefits of telling a story to our children. Among others, it highlighted that it helps them to increase their empathy and to see that there are other ways of understanding the world. It also stimulates their memory and creativity and expands their vocabulary. There are stories which have become true best-sellers, such as The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram and A Book by Hervé Tullet. These are only three examples of stories, very different from each other, but all of them conceived so that children can enjoy their pages.
Perhaps this was what encouraged us to have our own editorial line, called Read me a Story. Forming part of the most intimate moments of the life of a family and doing so in English, ensuring that the new language has a place in their day-to-day activity, is one of the things which makes me happiest. I’m excited to think that there are children who go to sleep with memories of the adventures of Betty Sheep and Gina Ginger echoing through their heads.
This was the dream I had in 2014, when we launched our editorial line, the same one as I have today as I present our third collection of stories to the world: Many Monsters. The love and affection with which Nori Nosy, the first story, has been written conveys a desire to encourage the children to fly through its pages, satisfying their innate curiosity and extending their innocence at their parents’ side.
Whether they remember it or not when they’re older, I’m sure we all stand to gain with these moments together. Do you remember the story of your childhood? And which is the one you most like to tell?