Reading books to your children at bedtime is a long-standing and, as far as I'm concerned, important tradition. I think the best way to introduce your children to the love of literature is to read to them from the day they're born.
However, as a writer, I'm constantly making up stories in my head (those voices are always talking to me!). When my sons were little, one night as I was tucking them in we'd forgotten to choose a book. Knowing that if I let them out of bed to choose one, it'd be another half hour before I got them back into bed, I decided instead to tell them a story.
I began telling them a story of two brothers and their adventures with a dragon. Of course the stars of the story shared names with my sons. They loved it! After that, every night they wanted more, and we continued to build on the same story. I didn't realize what an impact my making up stories rather than just reading them was having on the boys until a few years ago.
My sons, now grown, were excited when I published my first book. Their only question was how soon I was going to write and publish the story I'd made up for them years ago. I had no idea they even remembered the story, but they do, and they want it in print.
I'm so glad I took the time to do something a little outside the box, something that all these years later my children remember and cherish. Something as simple as making up a story for them, and spending the time to share it with them.
Starting Your Own Story time Tradition
How can you begin a similar tradition? It's simple. Think of what your kids enjoy: dinosaurs, princesses, horses, bike riding, dancing, singing ... anything they enjoy.
Once you have a theme, then make your kids the star. Begin telling them a story, even if you have to borrow from another well-known story.
Begin with, "Once upon a time there was a girl/boy named ..." You'll be surprised at how soon your own tale begins to emerge and veers from where you began.
Remember, it doesn't have to be the next Harry Potter; it only has to come from your love of your kids. They'll feel it, and love it better than any book you read them. Try telling a story to your kids tonight and see for yourself how cherished story time can be.