The idea of bedtime stories first crossed my mind during one of my regular evening routines with my siblings. We would gather and chat about general topics before heading to bed. At that time, I had recently bought a book titled, Men and Women Around the Messenger by Sa’ad Yusuf Abu Aziz but had not yet read it.
On this night, my 13-year-old brother pleasantly surprised me as he narrated the ‘cool stuff’ the companions of the Prophet ﷺ had done in the book. I was amazed at his ability to recount the most intricate parts of the stories, to the extent of mentioning the smallest detail of each companion as related in the book. While we had discussed books from my library before, this was the first time he’d reviewed an Islamic book rather than watching Power Rangers. His thoughtful choice left me in awe.
Gradually, I began buying age-specific Islamic books for him that anchored our sporadic nightly book chat. This in turn positively influenced my youngest sibling, sparking his interest in reading Islamic books.
“It is Allah who has made the night for you to rest in.” (Surah Al-Ghafir 40:61)
Ensuring a good night’s rest involves creating a bedtime routine that is composed of healthy and calming activities to perform before sleeping. This routine is like a gradually slowing oscillating swing. While establishing this habit initially may seem challenging, I have discovered that maintaining consistency leads to a smoother bedtime experience.
What are the consistent activities that your children engage in before sleeping? Often, parents go to great lengths to ensure their children sleep at an appropriate time. Some lure their children with enticing practices that eventually make them get ready for bed. These rituals culminate in their bedtime routine, serving as a fantastic method to instil self-care in children, improve their sleeping patterns, and reinforce family bonds.
We frequently underestimate the benefits of a bedtime routine, viewing it as a series of boring repetitive actions. However, experts confirm that these consistent habits provide a sense of security, enhance cognitive skills, boost mood, reduce stress, and aid in behaviour regulation for children.
One of those relaxing activities is listening to bedtime stories. Children find delight in shared reading moments, whether you read together, read to them, or they read independently, as you snuggle up together in a comfy bed. Infusing reading into your bedtime ritual contributes to your children’s literacy skills, language mastery, emotional intelligence, and vocabulary.
When you incorporate Islamic stories into your children’s bedtime routine, you’re not just putting them to sleep; you’re awakening their hearts to the beauty of faith. Children are like sponges, absorbing knowledge, and values from their surroundings. Bedtime stories that convey Islamic principles can profoundly instil moral compasses that shape their character, and lead them to the path of righteousness.
In this article, we will dive into the various ways of incorporating Islamic stories into your children’s bedtime routine.
1. Start Early
Aisha Harun, a relationship coach based in Nigeria, started the tradition of bedtime stories with her child when he was six months old.
“I started early and reduced screen time to the barest minimum such that he was more drawn to listening to bedtime stories than watching cartoons. Then, I bought colourful illustrated books tailored to his age. I don’t leave him to flip through the book alone, I engage him through a storytelling approach, and read some dialogues melodically to make it fun.”
Parents tend to believe that it is too early to read to babies that can’t talk yet. However, that is a myth. You can read to children anytime, irrespective of their age; the key is to select an age-appropriate book for them to comprehend. This will motivate your children to love reading and facilitate their literacy level as they develop their language skills.
2. Choice of books
It is important to choose interesting and engaging books for children. You can choose narrations of the prophets, sahabah (companions of the Prophet ﷺ), Angels, and other wondrous creations of Allah. Try exploring themes of adventures, fairy tales, fantasy, memoirs, self-help, and other suspenseful stories.
You will be surprised to discover that there are Islamic stories that fit each genre and it’s more remarkable that they are non-fiction. The story of Prophet Sulaiman (AS) and the Ant could rival a fantasy story. You can replace magic with miracles by settling for historical tales of Prophet Musa (AS) and the parting of the Red Sea, Prophet Ibrahim (AS) remaining unburnt by the fire he was thrown into, and water gushing forth in a desert to satisfy Hajar and Ismail’s thirst. The accounts of Ashabul Kahf (People of the Cave) would work as an adventure while pictorial books are a perfect fit for toddlers.
When our choice of books is according to the children’s interests and age, it is easy to integrate bedtime stories into their lives.
3. Make it fun
Monsuroh Agboola has a six-year-old cousin who lives with her family. Monsuroh started reading to her when she was two years old.
“I choose books that align with her interests and ones she can easily comprehend. I also jot down the new words to explain to her the next day. Her favourite part of our reading routine is when I mimic the voice of the characters to make it more entertaining.”
Children are naturally drawn to anything that is fun for them, it makes them look forward to the next experience.
Be a great storyteller. You can imitate the voices of the characters, make whimsical facial expressions, and conclude each night on a suspenseful note. That way, they will be enthusiastic to listen to it the following day.
Being dynamic and avoiding a monotonous reading style can help prevent boredom and loss of interest. Take intermittent pauses and ask questions – ask them to predict the reaction of a character or the climax of the story. For instance, you can say “What do you think will be Queen Bilqees’s reaction to Prophet Sulaiman’s (AS) letter?” Answer their questions too because kids will always have questions.
4. Keep it short
Rasheedah Opere from Lagos, Nigeria, shares her experience of how her two kids extend their bedtime stories with their endless curiosity as they continue to ask more questions.
Aisha Harun recommends starting the kids’ bedtime routine early to manage their inquisitiveness.
“Mothers should persuade their kids to save their questions for the following day. They can promise to answer the questions before starting their reading rituals the next day. Mothers can also ask their kids questions then encourage them to sleep on it and provide answers the next day.”
You have to be careful because books can get children excited and might even make them lose interest in sleeping once they regain full activity. Therefore, avoid reading for too long and end with an element of suspense when you don’t finish a book.
Moulding the habit of bedtime stories can be challenging initially. However, by taking small consistent steps, we can solidify a sustainable routine. Bedtime is an incredible time to share meaningful moments with our children. Incorporating these Islamic stories not only offers them a sense of comfort and security but also allows us to forge a deeper connection. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn and nurture their faith, literacy, and emotional development.
She is a poet, creative writer, and student at the University of Lagos. She is 23 years old and writes from Lagos, Nigeria. Her works appear on Knowislam.com.ng, The QuillS, Artmosterrific chapbook, Undivided Magazine, subsaharanmagazine.com, Ninshar Arts. She loves reading and enjoys a cup of tea.