Choose a book. Jump into bed. Get comfy, snuggle in and prepare to be transported.
A bedtime story has been a staple of the nighttime routine for children for generations, and the teachers at Hermitage Park Primary in Edinburgh assumed that for most of its pupils, particularly in early primary, this was still the case.
But when it surveyed children's families about bedtime habits, it discovered that more than two-thirds of the 100 pupils in the first two years of primary were not being read to before bed.
Instead, many were engaging with technology before going to bed: watching YouTube, playing games, or using tablets or phones to view children’s TV programmes.
Across the 380-pupil school as a whole, 87 per cent of children reported that they did not get a story before bed.
Lisa Black, the depute head at Hermitage Park Primary responsible for closing the attainment gap, said: “We were aghast to find how many children no longer had a bedtime story – particularly in P1 and 2. When we dug a bit deeper, we found some of our parents did not have the confidence to read and a small proportion felt they did not have the literacy skills.
“For other families, it was about time – they had busy work schedules or shift patterns.”
So the school decided to tap into the pupils’ interest in technology and created its own YouTube channel called Coorie-in – which in Scots means snuggle or cuddle in – to broadcast bedtime stories.
Every Thursday, the school uploads a new story to its channel and sends the link to families. The initiative, which was launched on World Book Day in March, kicked off with the actress Elaine C Smith reading The Glasgow Gruffalo.
Since then, education secretary John Swinney has contributed to the channel – he read another Julia Donaldson favourite, Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book – and a total of 15 stories have been uploaded.
The most popular to date has been The Glasgow Gruffalo – which sees “the wee gallus moose” going into the big scary wood to “funnoot whit the score wiz”. Her video has been viewed some 250 times.
Ms Black continued: “Before children start school, parents always come and ask, ‘How can I prepare my child for school?’ They expect us to say to teach them this or that, but there is one tried-and-tested thing parents can do, and that is read to their children. The evidence is incontrovertible.”
Some might criticise the approach, Black acknowledged, because it encourages children to engage with technology before bedtime. The school’s hope, however, is that watching the stories being read might get families back into the habit of reading as part of the bedtime routine.
“The idea is it’s an introduction,” she added. “We are hopeful once families have watched one story they will put the iPad down and say ‘let’s read another’, and go to the bookshelf.”
Black also stressed that the school had taken a two-pronged approach and, on a Monday afternoon, parents of nursery, P1 and P2 children are invited into school to take part in a reading session with their children. They start by singing songs before the teacher reads a story. Families then have the chance to explore the books in the school library and choose stories to read together.