When I tell people I am starting a podcast about bedtime stories and they ask me why I am interested in children’s books, I don’t correct them because they aren’t wrong. In fact, they are being helpful. Most of the books we are talking about can be found in the children’s section of bookstores and libraries. I can’t speak for all the defiantly quirky indie bookstores out there, but I’ve never come across a “Bedtime Stories” partition at Barnes and Noble. Nor am I trying to exclude any parents who hold a daily reading ritual at dinner, or before a nap, or on the way to school.
But we were deliberate in using the “bedtime stories” label. If somebody grew up with daily doses of Deuteronomy (as I did), or took their tuck-ins to installments of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (as I would love to hear about), I want this conversation to include that as well. And while this particular podcast started out as a chat about books featuring trucks and bunnies, the bedtime story boasts a fabled and ferocious heritage. It is Scheherazade spinning a new tale every night for a thousand and one nights because her life depended on it. It is the oral tradition that handed down whole cultures at the hearth. It kept village children from straying too far into the forest, but also encouraged them to explore a wider world. It seems absurd to lay claim to a little bit of that magic for the three pages of The Cat and the Hat that I just read to my son, but I can’t help but feel it to be true.
I love these topics! As a father of three little ones I have often negotiated the evening’s lineup of story books. It is fascinating (and sometimes disheartening) what stories get chosen over and over. The unanimous request I get most often is a made-up story set in a mythical world where the kids royal avatars reign, battling goblins and exploring new lands. But I don’t have the energy for that very often. And sometimes inspiration runs dry. And then we go back to the books.