Geeking Science: Building Memories

Image courtesy of Ambro at

Hop on Pop. I read and read and read as a kid. And when I became old enough to babysit, my sisters made me read Fox in Socks over and over and over again. Mostly as a torture because I had problems with the tongue twisters and it would set the three- and five-year olds giggling. The limit imposed was three children books after being tucked into bed, otherwise we would have made the parents read all night. They gave us such power: allowing us to choose two of the books to be read.

In a recent article on Edutopia, The Neuroscience of Narrative and Memory, bedtime stories are linked with memory. Children want to hear the stories over and over again because they learn how to predict things … successfully! Basic scaffolding learning – do something easy, with a good reward, and go from there. Eventually children apply the predictive ability to things they never been exposed to before.

In addition to teaching predictability, bedtime narratives also teach the narrative format, which in turns provides the memory network with an organized frame to remember things: inciting incident, problem, resolution, ending.

“Hey, little Erin, tell grandma about the trip to the zoo.” 


“What did we do first?”

“We gots in the car.”

“Then what?”

“We wented to the zoo. There were elephants and monkeys and a butterfly park where we ran.”

Grandma nods, smiling. “That sounds like fun.”

“It was. Except when I dropped my ice cream. But daddy got me another.”

“Tell grandma why you dropped the ice cream.”

“The peacock scared me.” My eyes grew large. “They have the peacocks in the lunch area!”

Grandma laughs, clapping her hands.

“After that we went home. Oh, and had pizza. It was the bestest day.”

From the narrative format instilled through nighttime story reading, parents teach how to tell stories and share experiences. With a little prodding, children learn how to explain things to others and include all the important details. A very useful skill in adulthood on providing instruction on how to do a task at work, breaking down an accident in the house and how to avoid it in the future, and dozens of other activities where knowing how to arrange things into a beginning, middle, and ending is essential.

Reading to children at bedtime isn’t only about teaching the love of reading, but a host of memory skills as well. That is pretty geeking cool.