by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
It’s been many years since I’ve taken a proper nap.
The idea of taking an hour in the middle of the day—turning off my screen or leaving my office (virtually or in person)—to have a refreshing snooze seems so great.
But I’ve never been able to nap. I try. I prepare. I darken my room. I take out my contact lenses. I set my phone on a table across the room. Then I lie there and proceed to get stressed that the time I’ve allocated for this nap is fast evaporating. The stress of not being able to nap makes me…unable to nap.
My mind starts racing. I think about all the things I should be doing. Plus I have terrible FOMO—fear of missing out—and the idea of napping in the middle of the day when exciting things might be going on around me wreaks havoc on my ability to calm down and rest.
I remember when my own children were small, getting them down for a nap was a super-ambitious process. We had to sing to them or feed them or, later on, read to them until their eyelids got heavy and they eventually drifted off to sleep.
(It was not good if they fell asleep in the car seat on the way home because even a short sleep could really mess up their nap schedule.)
I remember tiptoeing around and praying the doorbell wouldn’t ring or the dog wouldn’t bark and that Rebecca and John could get their full naps. And yes, to be honest, that I could have a little bit of time to myself.
All these memories came flooding back Saturday when I babysat for Sophie Rae.
She is usually a good napper, and her parents keep her on a pretty regular schedule. But while I am a very trustworthy babysitter—no friends over, no loud TV in the background, not even talking on the phone, just sorting through 40 years of photographs with the baby monitor right in front of me—I do have to resist the dual temptations of checking on her every five minutes (and risking waking her up) to make sure the baby monitor isn’t frozen, or intentionally waking her up to play, which is much more fun than organizing hundreds of photographs of Little League baseball games and school plays.
Obviously, I do have self-control and let her sleep, but it’s tempting for sure.
For now, Sophie Rae is on a normal six-month-old’s nap schedule. But she comes from a family with wide-ranging, frankly kind of nutty, sleep habits.
My great-aunt Gertrude, a truly lovely and fun and generous person, was a very late sleeper. Apparently, she went to bed no earlier than two in the morning, so her days and nights were reversed.
As a kid, this was an exotic mystery to me—Aunt Gert didn’t work or have any obvious reason why she would need to stay up all night—so I asked her son, Howard, who is currently a professor in Canada at the University of Manitoba, why he thinks his mother went to bed so late. Howard wrote back and explained that he had to learn to tell time when he was very young so he could wake up his mom and make sure he got to school on time.
Basically, he says, she just had a different internal clock. And while she was up by around 10 a.m. (drives to school notwithstanding), she wasn’t her impeccably dressed self and ready to go out until early afternoon.
I didn’t mention this to Howard, but I have another theory: Gertrude’s husband, Irving, was a very early riser with very particular habits, so maybe Gertrude preferred to be awake at times when her husband was not. It’s a possible clue.
My parents, who enjoyed being together as much as possible, were both early risers. I loved to sleep in—particularly on weekends when I would channel Gertrude and get up at noon. Which, of course, my parents didn’t love—although, to their credit, they let me sleep in.
During the week, getting up for school was a challenge. I would go through many rounds with my snooze button.
Through the years, I’ve met people with so many different sleep habits. My daughter has a friend, a highly accomplished professional woman now married with children, who does not hear her alarm—or any type of wake-up call or noise. Which is alarming for her family and friends, and scary for her.
Then there are the folks (like a very esteemed children’s book publisher who shall remain nameless) who can fall asleep anywhere. Plus my husband, Jeff, who can nod off in the middle of a dinner party.
And while traveling around the world, I have seen all kinds of sleep and napping cultures: siestas in Córdoba, Spain; earnest nappers on the steps of temples in India; and my own dear friend David Vozar, who, unlike me, can fall asleep on a train and once even slept through his stop.
All kidding aside, sleep is an important topic and an essential part of health and wellness for children. Children must get enough sleep to function properly.
To celebrate our current Book of the Week, The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood, we partnered with Pajama Program to help create more good nights for children all over the country.
“This cumulative tale has the distinction of some wonderfully inventive artwork, giving a panache that many other books of the same type lack.…An appealing, stylish book that is perfect for story hours” —Booklist (starred review)
Not only is The Napping House a beloved read-aloud classic; it also is a wonderful addition to any bedtime routine—something that our friends and partners at Pajama Program know by heart.
Pajama Program’s mission is to promote and support comforting bedtime routines and healthy sleep for all children to help them thrive. They give kids fresh and cozy pajamas and their very own brand-new book to help establish healthy bedtime routines for a restful night and even better days.
Something I admire about Pajama Program is their eagerness to partner with other organizations (like Scholastic) to help further their mission. In November 2020, Pajama Program united with Sweet Dreamzzz—a Detroit-based nonprofit that develops effective, evidence-based sleep-health education programs for families. By partnering with Sweet Dreamzzz, Pajama Program will be able to share their educational programs with even more families across the country.
As I said, David Vozar is an excellent sleeper. And after reading The Napping House, he reflected on his attempted naps with his French bulldog, Yoshi.
David and I and the team at Scholastic Book Clubs forwent our real and aspirational naps this week and put together some great videos, resources, and activities to help you and your students get the most out of The Napping House:
• The Book Boys create a lively visual retelling of The Napping House using building blocks.
• Kindergarten teacher Brian Smith’s enthusiasm for The Napping House shines through as he shares how his students love tracking the small background details in Book Talks.
• Wife-and-husband author-and-illustrator duo Audrey and Don Wood reveal the real Napping House and more in Behind the Scenes.
• Download a free printable Bedtime Routine Checklist created in collaboration with our friends at Pajama Program in Cooked Up from a Book.
I hope you and your students enjoy The Napping House, and that it becomes a beloved part of your bedtime, naptime, or (anytime) story-time routine. And I encourage you to check out Pajama Program to learn about their important work and to get some helpful bedtime tips.
Good night and happy reading!
PS: For every copy of The Napping House you purchase, we’ll donate a book to Pajama Program to help kids in need.