Bedtime stories & children

Once upon a time, a survey found most Irish children under five prefer reading and bedtime stories to watching TV, and that over half of Irish parents begin reading to their kids before they are six months old.

And those behind the survey found that the younger children are exposed to books and reading, the more likely it is that they will live happily ever after.

The findings have been released to mark the launch of Bord Gáis Energy’s second annual Little Readers campaign which gives away thousands of free books to inspire a love of reading in young children.

Parents have now been invited to register for a free book through a special book club website and for every registration, the company will donate €1 to the Irish Premature Babies Association — a campaign which last year saw over €2,000 donated to the charity.

To highlight the campaign, the company asked 331 parents of children under five about their reading habits.

The findings show that almost 90% of those surveyed start reading to their children before their first birthday.

A fifth of under fives have more than 30 books, while almost a quarter have more than 50 books on their shelves at home.

The survey found that just over 60% of under fives have access to a tablet, like an iPad or Kindle, and that most use the devices mostly to watch cartoons. However, parents of a third of the children said they use the devices to read their favourite stories.

Almost 90% of parents said their children really enjoy reading and story-time, with only 7% preferring to watch TV.

The classics remain popular with Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl topping the list of favourite children’s authors.

Morgan Freeman is the celebrity most Irish parents would like to read them a bedtime story, followed by Liam Neeson and Julie Andrews.

But household chores were cited as the main reason why parents don’t have more free time to read to their kids.

Leading children’s author, and Laureate na nÓg, Eoin Colfer, stressed the importance of parents reading to their children from a young age.