Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin's The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep
Book review by Maira Sousa Joergensen
The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep is a bedtime story written by the Swedish author Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin, who describes the book as a "new way of getting children to sleep."
Ehrlin uses his background as a psychologist to produce an innovative story intended to work as a sleep inducer. The book uses different hypnosis techniques to help the wakeful child relax.
The book includes a set of instructions, which not only contribute to a successful read but give parents the opportunity to consciously engage in preparing their children for a good night sleep.
One cannot help but feel the warm Scandinavian approach to child development through the eyes of the little rabbit's mother in the story. Little Roger cannot sleep; his mother understands the problem and guides little Roger on his journey to sleep in a caring and loving manner.
A child who struggles to sleep has a very serious problem; in addition, that problem has the potential to affect the child-parent relationship negatively. Perhaps your perfect little angel has become a most challenging two-year-old, one who keeps running away from bed every time he is called upon to go to sleep and keeps at it, giving in only to exhaustion two hours later.
My situation was even more challenging than that, as my precious five-year-old nerd would still be wide awake by the time I reached story number three and would ask for more milk and another a trip to the toilet-still showing no sign of tiredness.
The situation was not sustainable. How was I failing so badly at such a simple task? Perhaps the failure was not mine alone. Perhaps my little mini circus was responsible: a clownish father who wanted desperately to entertain, the little acrobat capable of turning any furniture into a gymnastic apparatus, and the 5-year old whose focused determination on staying awake was akin to a tightrope walker's.
In my desperation to put an end to the circus, I remembered a book I had once downloaded about a little rabbit, but the memory of my 5-year-old suggesting a game on tablet, as opposed to hearing what he referred to as a boring story, was too fresh in my mind.
I had two choices: give in into the tempting thought of throwing myself out of the window or get my hands on a hardcopy of the book.
With my mind made up, I found the book first thing the next day, and it was easy to find; after all, what kind of serious bookshop does not stock a number one bestseller? The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep is long, but I was determined to make it work, so I read the instructions carefully and practiced reading the italicized text in a "calm and slow manner" (in total contrast to my feelings of desperation), but "Where there is a will there is a way," and in the end the boys were just shocked not just by my change in tenor but in my actual demanor.
The book had already given me hope, and even they could perceive the change in my mood.
The story begins engagingly as little Roger and your child together walk to uncle Yawn's house to get help falling asleep, but from that point on the story is meant to disengage your child from wakefulness. And it works!
My husband and I normally read to each boy separately, and that was important in this instance. Including only one child in each reading of the story helped us address each child's problem separately, as well as allowing us to read to each child in an age-appropriate fashion.
I had guessed that our two-year-old would present the greatest challenge, so I put on all my courage, reminded myself that I was the adult, and, most importantly, threatened him with never having sweets again if he jumped out of bed.
I started reading the story while he walked back and forth on the bed but kept his side of the deal by not jumping off. When he heard his name in the story, he came down to look at the book, and stayed down, and listened to the rest of the story while playing with his red train.
Despite his best efforts to stay awake, I could see him relaxing. The constant yawns incorporated into the reading worked like a charm-- for me as well.
I realized that while I was good at promoting intellectual and physical stimuli, I had never before engaged in a relaxing activity with my son, and that is what the book taught both of us.
My son learned to listen to his tired body, and that it was actually very pleasant to sleep when tired; by the third evening he fell asleep before the story was even finished . Success!
My five-year-old it was even easier, as the story of little Roger did not activate his curious mind. (Though that first day he tried to follow the story, demanding to see the illustrations. However he rather quickly got discouraged, as the illustrations are intentionally dull. See above.) He learnt that there was a difference between fun reading and bedtime reading, at least with me, because Dad still reads endless stories, but that is another story which has nothing to with The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, which in my opinion, combined with a little parental creativity, delivers exactly what it promises.
Maira is a mom from Midjylland, Denmark.
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