Reading at Bedtime When You Can’t Cuddle Up – A Booklights Reprise

With my husband (and #1 bedtime story reader) firmly ensconced in a 2-week business trip three time zones away, it seemed like a perfect time to pull this from my Booklights archive.

In the 18  months since I first wrote this post about reading aloud when you can’t be with your child, another option has come on the scene: recordable storybooks. Last fall, Hallmark started selling children’s picture books with embedded recording devices. There are classics like Goodnight Moon, Guess How Much I Love You, and Counting Kisses, as well as “house specials.” These  books add personalization with your voice and make reading aloud possible when you can’t be there in person.

If there are other companies doing the same thing and/or if you have other suggestions, please add to the discussion in the comments.

Bedtime from Afar: Sharing Books When You Can’t Cuddle Up Close

originally published on Booklights, 27 October 2009

One of our favorite daily rituals is sharing bedtime stories with our daughter. In addition to it being a nice way to end the day, sharing a book is a nice way to reconnect and say “I love you.”

When Catherine was an infant, my husband had long workdays, so he really looked forward to having that daddy-daughter time each day. When he moved into his new job he traveled more, and he hated the separation as much as Catherine did. Because he was often in a different time zone, it wasn’t always easy to sync our schedules so that he could read to her over the phone. So we started “taping” books so he could read her a bedtime story.

For our first recordings we hooked up a microphone to the computer, read a book into a music program, and then burned the recording onto CD. It worked, but was cumbersome. Neither of us are gadget geeks which probably added to the awkwardness of the process.

About six months ago, we purchased a hand-held digital recorder ($10). We bought it for another purpose, but has become our storytelling machine. Before I went to BookExpo America, I recorded a bedtime story (and a few night-time messages). The digital recorder works MUCH better. Because I am old enough to remember cassette recorders, I like that the gadgetry is identical to the play, stop, record buttons I know. The recorder can hold more content than a CD, so we can read more books. What I really like, though, is that you can easily change out individual stories in the collection. Although we use the recorder to stay connected when one of us is traveling, there are other ways you can use it. These are just three ideas … I’m sure you’ve got some suggestions, too.

Send a recorded gift. Grandparents could read a story or stories and send it along with the actual book(s). They might even add personal stories about growing up, too.

Try a reverse gift. Select a picture book or chapter book and have all the kids take turns reading them … and have them autograph the book, too. Adults LOVE to hear the sound of their little relatives.

Create a book club. Send the recorder back and forth, with each recipient taking a turn reading a book or chapters from a book. This makes great practice in reading aloud for kids, too.

Ultimately, this is an easy, fun way to get in that daily dose of read aloud. Any book that is fun to read together is perfect. The sound of your voice is what makes it special. In sharing a recorded book with a child, you are enriching their world. Not only are you giving them wonderful memories, you are helping them grow as readers.

Because the recorders are portable, kids aren’t tied to their computer or their boom box and they can carry that little bit of love with them anywhere!

I’m always on the lookout for new book ideas, so if you could have a friend or relative read a children’s book, who would it be and what book would you want to hear?

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