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I Hate Bedtime Reading

Dear Heather,

I feel bad for saying this, but I really don't like reading to my preschooler before bed. I wish it was a pleasant experience, but instead it's nothing but haggling and trying to stall. She picks the longest books possible (not because she likes them, just because they're long), always asks for one more. She even asks me to re-read a book because I didn't get it right the first time.

What should I do?

Turning the Page

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Dear Turning,

OK, let's change up this before-bed dynamic and make it more enjoyable for you—and more contained and clear for your daughter. The emotional tone of the bedtime routine is so important, because the routine is the bridge between being with you and being alone for the night. Let's help you both enjoy this time instead of dreading it—it will make it easier for her to say goodnight and see you in the morning.

First, let's start with the book selection. There are certain books we as parents just don't enjoy, that our kids have outgrown or we've read a zillion times. My recommendation is to pare down the books in her room to just the best ones—the ones you love. In my opinion, a smaller selection of really sweet, good stories is better than piles of books just for the sake of having them. Take out all the books and sort them when she's not around, donate the ones you don't truly enjoy and maybe store a small selection to bring out later. Quality over quantity—you can keep adding books to your collection as you find ones that you and she really love.

Leave enough time in the routine so that reading isn't rushed; she might be able to feel your desire to get it over with. Skip bath or go straight from dinner into the bath, so you have more time to read.

Preschoolers are so good at making every step between the bath and lights-out tricky and prolonged, so try to put parameters on it. You can say, "You pick one book, I pick one book." Or you can tell her clearly that you'll just be reading a certain book one time. In other words, explain up front what the plan is, so there's nothing to haggle over.

Now you can both just get cozy and enjoy this time together before bed.

Sleep happy,


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Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her home consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

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