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tired

Ever have a bad day where you bend the rules a little to make life easier? Like when you order take-out even though the fridge is full of fresh food. Or when you skip the bedtime story because you're too damn tired to read to the kids.

Exhaustion is part and parcel of being a parent and kids aren't usually fazed if it means corners are cut once in a while. Often they'll see our rule-bending as beneficial to them, allowing room for a surprise treat: pizza instead of mum's shepherd's pie; an extra TV show instead of a bedtime story.

Some nights in my house we're both exhausted after our day's work and, once the kitchen is cleaned up and homework is done, are fit for little more than collapsing on the couch. And the bedtime stories can get sidelined.

A recent survey carried out by Nestle Munch Bunch revealed that 60pc of parents were too tired to read bedtime stories to their children. It's not a heartening statistic, but is something we can all work on to change.

Our middle child, Ely, would happily hand you every book in the house, one after the other, if he thought he'd get you to read them all. He's not even three, so can't read, but takes immense pleasure from climbing up beside anyone with a book and getting lost in the pages.

As avid readers we're delighted at his enthusiasm for the written word, but I have to confess that some days it drives us mad being asked to read book after book when we're busy.

Countless studies have been done into the benefits of reading aloud to young children. It's widely accepted that kids who are read to from an early age have better language development. It helps their memory and their motor skills through learning to turn the pages and also improves their emotional and social development. (Experience reveals it can help improve our own memories too. Hands up who can recite The Gruffalo.)



bond

But there's another reason why we should all fall in love with bedtime stories: it's the close emotional bond it creates between our children and our selves. Experts recommend starting to read to a child from when they are born. My 15-month-old finds it hard to sit still for a whole book and is only interested in touchy-feely ones. But there's no denying she loves the intimacy and attention when we sit her up on our knees and help her discover a colourful new world between the pages.

I always feel good after making special reading time for each of the children. Family stories are lovely moments too, when we snuggle up on the sofa with the boys and get stuck into one of their favourite books.

They love the attention, the closeness and the chance to ask questions. You can almost see their little brains whirring as they grapple with narrative and drink up new vocabulary. Story time reinforces reading as a pleasurable activity, too, which is a powerful message to impart to little schoolgoers.

Experts recommend 20 minutes daily as an optimum reading time with children, but I'd say 10 minutes is better than no reading time at all.

Aside from making us feel like we're being good parents, story time is a surprisingly relaxing and rewarding experience, especially for anyone who has been away from their kids all day. Sometimes, through the tiredness, it's easy to forget life's simplest pleasures.