Sleep ‘self help’ books: autobiographical evaluations and personal entanglements with reading professional advice books on young children’s sleep. An exploration of the journey through early parenting and managing sleep through two mothers-as-researchers perspectives.




children’s sleep, autobiographical writing, reader response, mothering


This article reports on two researchers’ experiences of navigating children’s night-time sleep, in relation to reading best-selling parenting books, published by professionals in the UK in the last 20 years. We felt we were ‘getting it wrong’ where we so badly wanted to ‘get it right’ for our children, because they did not sleep like the books described: silent, solitary, separate and for 12 uninterrupted night-time hours. It was also not possible to ‘read’ the advice without owning our own positionality: in particular our classed, professional identities. Perhaps this is always the case in research, and we should ‘treat our bias as a resource’ as seminal life history work urges. We found we could not but take the advice personally, which tended to focus on behaviour-orientated strategies within the routines and rituals around night-time sleep. We harness an under-studied approach within Early Childhood research, Reader-Response theory, which argues reading is a transaction; the reader brings personal context to the text at the same time as gleaning information from it. Seeing reading as a transaction helps us understand how our identities feed into our reading: our readings shape, but also are shaped by our contexts.

Author Biographies

Lexie Scherer, University of Portsmouth

Lexie Scherer is Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies at the University of Portsmouth. Her research interests are around the Sociology of Childhood, children’s sleep, and research which promotes children’s own voices about their lives and experiences. She is author of Children, Literacy and Ethnicity, which was shortlisted for the Philip Abrams Memorial Prize (2017).

Amanda Norman, University of Winchester

Dr Amanda Norman is a Senior Lecturer in Education (Early Years) at the University of Winchester, UK. She is an author of several books about the earliest years as well as published works about infant care pedagogies in academic peer reviewed and professional practice articles. Amanda is currently researching Froebelian philosophies and attachment led care, within and beyond the home, within the nexus of historical and contemporary perspectives. As an early years' consultant, she continues to support and liaise with early professionals working in the sector, in addition to her academic role. She is author of  Historical Perspectives on Infant Care.