Despite rooms filled with all manner of electronic distractions – from TVs and video games to computer-based fantasy worlds – almost half of the nation’s children age 7 or younger most often opt for a bedtime story before turning in for the night.
And what is America’s all-time favorite bedtime story? According to a national survey commissioned by SleepBetter.org and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, one in four Americans (23%) say it is “Goodnight Moon,” Margaret Wise Brown’s perennial classic first published in 1947, with vivid illustrations by Clement Hurd.
Ask the same question to parents of children age 7 or younger, however, and the overwhelming choice of their children are stories that mom and dad make up themselves, which three in four parents (74%) say they have done. More than one in three parents (35%) – twice the 17 percent of parents that named “Goodnight Moon” – said that their kids preferred stories the parents spun from their own imaginations. And it was likely mom’s imagination at that. While 65 percent of those surveyed said that mom was in charge of the bedtime story, just 22 percent said the duty usually fell to dad.
“Children today – even the very youngest of them – are connected electronically to so many forms of entertainment, but it’s so heartening to see that the tradition of bedtime stories is still such a dominant part of American home life because it actually develops healthy sleep routines for the entire family,” said Dan Schecter, vice president of consumer products at Carpenter Co., and creator of SleepBetter.org. “This survey not only confirms the staying power and impact that reading to our kids at night can have, but it also goes to show that classic bedtime stories never really go out of fashion and that parents are also adept at spinning some nighttime tales of their own.”
On the list of America’s – parents and nonparents alike – all-time favorites, behind “Goodnight Moon” (23%) was Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” (20%) followed by “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (15%), “I’ll Love You Forever” (14%), “Cinderella” (13%) and “Where the Wild Things Are” (7%).
The list of favorites among young children aged 7 and younger was similar. Behind the parents’ own stories was “Goodnight Moon” (17%), “The Cat in the Hat” (11%), “Green Eggs and Ham” (10%), “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (6%) and “Where the Wild Things Are” (4%).
Who most often gets to pick the story, the parent or the child? The kids won out overwhelmingly, 84 percent to 11 percent.
As for their own favorites when they were kids, the intransigent Sam who steadfastly insisted that the narrator partake of a verdant breakfast of “Green Eggs and Ham” topped the list, cited by 22 percent. Other erstwhile favorites were “The Three Little Pigs” (16%), “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (15%), “Where the Wild Things Are” (13%), “Cinderella” (11%) and “Goodnight Moon” (6%).
A total of 46 percent of American parents say that bedtime stories are used most often over other nightly rituals, outpolling prayer (19%), bedtime conversation with parents and siblings (14%), television (11%), imaginative play (7%) and video games (1%). As to whether bedtime stories were a tradition in their own homes growing up, just over half of survey respondents (52%) said yes.
Twenty-seven percent of children age 7 or younger have a television set in their own bedrooms, a number that appears to have a bearing on bedtime. While 17 percent of kids within that age group go to bed after 9 p.m., that figure jumps 10 percentage points (to 27%) for kids who have bedside TVs.
Almost one in four Americans (23%) believes that reading to their kids every night has the biggest positive impact on their kids’ performance in school. A total of 44 percent put a premium on a good night’s sleep, while 25 percent say it is helping children with their homework.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted March 11-14, 2010. For the survey, a nationally representative sample of 512 randomly-selected parents of children under age 8 was interviewed by telephone via Ipsos’ U.S. Telephone Express omnibus. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within ±4.33 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire population of adults in the U.S. been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were weighted to ensure the sample’s regional and age/gender composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Note, that for the question “What is the best all time bedtime story?” the question was open to all respondents, not just parents of children 7 and younger.
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Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research company, owned and managed by research professionals that help interpret, simulate and anticipate the needs and responses of consumers, customers and citizens around the world. The company was founded in 1975 and has been publicly traded since 1999. Visit www.ipsos.com to learn more.