LS: Bedtime Stories November 30, 2008

Once upon a bedtime. Stories spark the imaginations in kids, parents

Mariah Kollasch, 10, of Palisade describes some of her family’s bedtime stories as her mother Laurie listens.

A tale about a bubble gum castle has always been Mariah Kollasch’s favorite bedtime story.

When Mariah, 10, and her sister, Savannah Kollasch, 14, were younger, their mother took them on magical trips through cotton candy walls and melting fudge floors. And somehow, every bedtime story incorporated the bubble gum castle with its green gumdrop grass and enchanted forest. Sometimes, the girls rode dragons and dinosaurs in the stories. Dinosaurs were
Savannah’s favorite mode of transportation.

The girls’ mother, Laurie Kollasch, said she has told bedtime stories to her daughters since they “were little bitty.”

Mariah remembers the bubble gum castle as if it were a real place.

“Anything we ate grew back,” Mariah said. “Everything in the whole castle was made out of candy.”

Bedtime stories and candy — gum balls, specifically — are also part of the plot of an upcoming movie. On Christmas Day, Walt Disney Pictures plans to release the movie “Bedtime Stories” starring Adam Sandler. In the movie, Sandler plays a man who tells his niece and nephew bedtime stories that begin to come true. The movie’s official Web site is

The movie’s plot made Maxine Curley, head of children’s services at Mesa County Libraries, chuckle.

Curley, a children’s librarian for more than 30 years, grew up listening to bedtime stories.

Sometimes, she would ask her mother if a cow could really jump over the moon.

“She said, ‘In some places it does,’ ” Curley said. “She would never destroy my fantasies. If the cow jumped over the moon in a book, it could happen in real life.”

In addition to being enjoyable for parents and children, bedtime stories have been shown to be important in the development of reading skills, according to a passel of research done in the past 20 years.

According to the National Education Association, “reading aloud to children is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child’s chance of reading success.

Talking to children about books and stories read to them also supports reading achievement.”

Speaking and reading to children helps them build a vocabulary and learn letters before school begins and while they are in school, Curley said.

Curley spent most of her childhood reading books or being read to, particularly at bedtime.

Curley spoke fondly of “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson. The chapter book with pirates and treasure is perhaps too sophisticated for young children to read on their own, but
they could listen.

“We made (my mother) keep reading even when her voice was hoarse,” Curley said. “My mother read to us a lot.”

While Curley had books read to her as a child, Mariah is growing up listening to bedtime stories concocted in her mother’s brain. Mariah and her sister sometimes make suggestions on the direction of the plots, too.

“Neither went to bed real well,” Laurie Kollasch said of her daughters. “I’d start a story and get them all caught up in it.”

The girls fell asleep to a story or fell asleep thinking about what would happen next.

Savannah, now a teenager, doesn’t ask for bedtime stories anymore, Kollasch said, but Mariah still enjoys spinning bedtime tales with her mother, especially when she’s sick or stressed out.

Bedtime stories were a part of Kollasch’s ritual when she was a child, so she said it seemed natural to pass that tradition along to her daughters.

In fact, Kollasch enjoys telling stories so much she joined The Mesa County Spellbinders, an organization dedicated to helping volunteers learn to tell stories. The volunteers then go to area schools and libraries to tell stories to children.

“We think we get more out of it than the kids,” Kollasch said.

While the stories at schools and libraries are told during the day, bedtime is a natural time for family to interact, establishing a routine with stories and a chance to wind down at the end of the day, Kollasch said.

Mariah had several tips for parents wanting to tell their own bedtime stories to their children.

First, she said, there needs to be someone evil who is winning small things, but the good person should win in the end.

“I like the ones where the good person is smarter and has to outwit the evil one,” she said.

Mariah advised that there need to be creatures — real animals or pretend, such as dragons — in the stories.

In addition, she likes stories with more than one hero or heroine so the individuals have different strengths and have to work together to solve a problem.

“Oh, and it has to have magic,” Mariah said.

Kollasch said making up bedtime stories can be intimidating, and sometimes creating fantasies can be a lot of work at the end of the day, so she advised parents to start simply.

“Take a book and do something with the book,” she said. “Take an adventure from the book and change the characters.”

She suggested making children the lead characters, and as the children grow older, allow the children to help tell the story.

“Bedtime is an intimate time for a parent and child,” Curley said.


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