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It’s rare to find a news story that I want to share with my kids. But that’s the goal behind our digital team’s latest project — we want to create stories that you’ll want to read to your family at bedtime. This tale has everything: adventure, mysterious bones, courageous characters and a creepy cave. And, it’s all true!
Earlier this year we published a mildly controversial essay called “Skip the fairy tales, tell your daughter science bedtime stories instead.” Our parenting columnist, Wendy Thomas Russell, wrote that her husband, Charlie, has an unusual ritual that their daughter loves. At bedtime, instead of telling the more traditional tales about fairies and wizards and talking animals, he tells true stories about stars and planets, bugs and bats – the world’s oldest tree. He tells bedtime stories about science.
There’s something about the ritual of the bedtime story that’s hard to put into words. It’s a time of comfort, closeness, relative quiet – a special time with your kids, and a perfect time to get lost in a story. That may be why we feel an attachment to our favorite childhood bedtime stories decades later, as adults. And we loved the idea of creating stories that wouldn’t lull children to sleep so much as they’d prime their dreams with a sense of adventure.
We were inspired.
For the record, fairy tale lovers were not amused by the original essay. “How much creativity was imparted to history’s greatest geniuses by their exposure to tales of fantasy? It is irresponsible to suggest that you can make a Mythbuster without any myths.” wrote reader John Morke in the comments. It’s a fair point, and we’ve got nothing against imagination. But we’re journalists, and the majority of our days are spent living in the world of nonfiction. Mostly.
We had a challenge. Could we report, write and create a series of true science stories parents would want to share with their kids at bedtime?
It’s time to find out. This is the beginning of a series where we’ll take important science news and present it in a format we hope kids and parents will enjoy. These stories are designed to work well on phones, tablets, or in print. We know you might want to keep technology out of the bedtime routine. I know I do.
Our first Science Bedtime Story is the tale of a team of daring scientists who braved a dangerous cave to uncover the bones of the Naledi – a likely ancestor of humans that was recently discovered in South Africa.
To create this story, we spent hours interviewing the scientists about the journey into the cave, the challenges of digging up the bones and the thrill of piecing those bones together.
There are far more questions about the Naledi than answers, and that’s ok. We hope those questions might spark your child’s imagination. Or maybe your own.
Also, leave us feedback in the comments on this post. We want to know how your kids react, and what we can do to improve our Science Bedtime Stories in the future.
Travis Daub is Director of Digital at PBS NewsHour.
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