I had resisted trying out the book Buddha at Bedtime for ages because, from the title, I thought it might be inaccessible to non-Buddhists. I was wrong! I was looking for calming bedtime stories and that is exactly what I found.
Happily, Buddha at Bedtime provides an interesting collection of short, moral stories that facilitate reflection, understanding, and wisdom, as well as calm, quiet experiences while reading. As I write, one child has just asked me for ‘that book that says “relax, be very still, and listen”’. Every story opens in this way, and my children look forward to the invitation to sit in peace and listen to stories.
Sometimes we have read the stories during quiet times in the afternoon; often I’ve saved them for bedtime; during summer we have even taken the book outdoors. I have generally approached every story as the author intended. However, ‘The Brave Little Parrot’ and ‘Goblin Island’ refer to gods in the sky which I’ve changed to ‘helpers’. Also, when ‘luck’ is mentioned I’ve found it easy to omit phrases and avoid including the concept.
As well as opening in a similar format, each story ends with a short moral to confirm the teaching message. I like that part the best, because I benefit from the reminders in the stories as much my children can learn from them, but also because I grew up with short stories that similarly concluded with the words ‘the moral of the story is …’. Alhamdulillah I (generally) find it easy to accept that all life experiences grant me useful learning opportunities, and make sense in those terms, and I am hopeful that these stories will nurture such positivity and trust in my children too.
We’ve been using the book for a few months. The children ask for the stories, discuss them a little, and appear to learn from them. Their only criticism is the repeated vignettes in the illustrations within stories, instead of new illustrations – which we all find a shame in any book.
As I said, I wasn’t drawn to this book when I first discovered it. I wanted Nightlights and More Nightlights from the same series (but by a different author). However, after skimming through these titles, I realised they were not for me. I like using gentle meditations sometimes, but I don’t like to involve the concept of holding a magic lamp to feel secure on a journey. For me, I am trying to facilitate my children find security in the Light of their Creator and the guardian angels (made of light) that He created … and so I do not want to engage with stories that may undermine that development.
Insha’Allah I imagine we will continue to read Buddha at Bedtime for years. I am considering getting The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime as well. I think Dharma Day will fall during Ramadan again in 2016 so insha’Allah perhaps I’ll blog about these books in advance, rather than (very) late next time.
Have you read Buddha at Bedtime stories to your children at bedtime? I’d love to hear your experiences. Please comment below with your experiences or tweet me @elizabethlymer.
Elizabeth Lymer writes rhymes and stories to support informal, playful learning for children aged 0–7 years old. She blogs about using Muslim and other religious children’s literature to foster a strong Muslim identity, interfaith harmony, and multi-faith respect. She is the author of four Muslim nursery rhymes books: Islamic Nursery Rhymes, Muslim Lullabies, Ramadan Rhymes, and Hajj Harmonies; one Abrahamic interfaith book Religious Rhyme Time; and one black-and-white baby book Baby Traveller Bismillah. Elizabeth loves rainbows and insha’Allah you can look out for more of them in her forthcoming work.