Pre-bedtime entertainment has experienced its own archaeology of changesince the radio dominated so many living roomsduringthe interwar period. Today, with the one-time 'familytelevision set' already sacrificed to more individualistic distractions such as smartphones and other digital toys, it is no lesscommon to spend quality time cuddling up to one's children on the sofa before the nextepisode of The Simpsons or in front of ananimated film. Despite the fact that my urban tribe and I certainly enjoy our iPhone amusements too, ourbedtime readingstill scores atpole position, withthe traditional storybook in paper and text enjoying pride of place.

Indubitably most of us choose our kids' pillow lit according to what canstrike a happy balance between cultivating a genuine appetite for adventure and what offers fun, light educationthatavoids being a pedagogicalmouthful. The very best among these storylines tend to give importance to grandparents, free time with mum and dad or to valuing friends, siblings, animals or the environment around us. Soft hints at responsible emotional management and the celebration of equality, social tolerance and diversity in our families and communities are also among the essential elements of any winning plot.

But aphorisms aside, when reality hits home we are perhaps more superficial than we are willing toacknowledge. I'm not always as convinced that it is so important to meon a Monday night how much myChildren are actuallybeing taughtfrom the content of a bedtime story - given that it is usually designed far less to amuse through dispensing action and special effects than it is to appeal more gently to the imagination.

Indeed, whatever may be the qualities of the printed bedtime story book, I suspect that for many parents its greatest merit lies -paradoxically- in itsdexterity inputting children to sleep. Doubtless this plays some part in motivating tired parents after a long day's work to moderate their reading voice to a monotonous drone which soon has their kids nodding off out of sheer self-defence, a'tactic' shown in thefollowing Emilystory:

Even ifmy youngestchilddozes off sometimes within minutes of my reading to her, in my experience encouraging a relationship with books has assisted in communicating to heranidea of literacy which invites a sense of 'quest' and 'effort' which can be excitingin itself.

When bedtime storybooks are not simply downloadable from our pcs or just a quick click away then usually they have some prized place upon a bookshelf somewhere in the house.

We must rise from where we areto reach them, then physically find and open them to begin reading. They become those coveted stories we take out only at that special time before going to sleep. More importantly, as parents snuggle up to their children at bedtime it is often many hands that hold those books up to the light as they are being read: there is joint engagement, often questions are asked and discussed, and a climate of complicity prevails.

A last defence of the bedtime story, this time resonating more with the regular day-to-day life of ordinary families everywhere (and, I believe, no less relevant): as a father I have often found this 'night ritual' especially useful for its ability to signal closure to a child's day. The fact that it comes just before going to sleep also makes it instrumental in offering our kids an appreciation for order by which they feel secure and taken care of. This is why the bedtime story has its appropriate post-dinner slot after all the homework is behind us and everyone's teeth have been brushed.

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