Ten Second Takeaway
Whether it’s fairy tale, a spooky adventure or an absurd story you made up on the spot, bedtime stories have always been a big hit with kids. And they're a big hit with parents too! Routine is important in childhood and a bedtime routine that involves stories told by a guardian greatly strengthens their bond and can help influence the child's outlook and personality. Bedtime reading is a great way to relax, stimulate creative thought and slip into a world of imagination. The stories you choose can help teach children about values and virtues, and allow intimate conversations during difficult times.
We invited celebrated storyteller and children's author Trishla Jain to share her anecdotes and advice on using bedtime stories to teach children to be mindful and live with purpose.
What sleepy-time stories can teach young children
We’ve all grown up listening to and falling asleep to stories—tall tales of monsters and brave men, age-old myths of gods and goddesses saving humanity from destruction, fables and morals of courage and friendship. I speak for myself and my children when I say that they shaped our minds and how we see the world. This is something we have heard writers the world over say about the power of storytelling. It’s something I knew wholeheartedly as a reader too.
One day, my kids came back from school and asked me if they were Christian because they knew that some of their friends were going to church. They started talking to me about God and what they knew about religions. I wanted them to have a basic understanding of all the different religions, the different temples, synagogues and mosques and the different religious sites practices like chanting. But I also wanted them to understand that ultimately, all religions have the same fundamental purpose: to care and shower compassion and love at living beings of all types. An idea was starting to take shape in my head, one that looked like a new bedtime story.
I loved chanting Om with my grandfather when I was younger. Ever since I was two or three, we used to wake up early in the morning, sit together and chant Om—starting with the aah, followed by the ohh and ending with the mmm—and that’s really the complete primordial sound. And as I was teaching my children this, in my continued attempt to make them connect with the world and live mindfully, they seemed to get a little bored and lost. Maybe there was a bedtime story here too.
Was it just me or was bedtime storytelling turning into the best way to get my kids to listen to me and learn to think independently? Maybe I could get them to clean their rooms, eat their vegetables and finish their homework. The moon or world peace weren’t too far either! That’s when I knew that I didn’t want to limit my stories to myths, fables and adventures. I wanted to show my kids the world with all its diversity, problems, politics and religions. I wanted to teach them how to survive in a world with its hatred and differences. I wanted them to be mindful and to live with certain values, be it gratitude, peace, acceptance or tolerance. I wanted to show the beauty and strength they held within their hearts.
As my children grow older and I continue to read to them, from their favourite books and my own dog-eared copies from when I was little, I realize there are many more things I want to teach them about through the stories I am telling them every night. If the world had kinder minds, kinder souls, and if stories could help us get there, why wouldn’t we want to read to our kids more?
I am hungry for stories so that I can present them to my kids every night in the hope that they live mindfully and with purpose, and that they are just as beautiful and strong ten years from now as they are today.
A fan of vegetables, meditation and tidiness, Trishla Jain calls herself 'a work in progress'. She is dedicated to deep, mindful living. As a mother of two, she writes books that bring families together to explore spirituality in a light, magical way. Trishla fell in love with English literature while at Stanford University in California, where she resides today. Her books for children include Om the Gnome and the Chanting Comb and Sunrise, Moonrise published by Penguin Random House India.