Enjoying a book with your child is a fantastic way to share adventures and experiences together, and it’s the best way to get them reading for life. Here are our tips on reading to your little ones.
Sharing a book is a real bonding experience and, for young children, cuddling up with a parent to read can be a special time. As you turn the pages, you can ask questions, talk about characters, ideas and events, and decide what you think together.
Reading is important, but don’t feel that you have to take on a teaching role or put pressure on your child to start to read before they go to school. It’s great to instil a love of books and language from an early age, but most of all, be led by your child, their interests and their pace of development.
When should I start reading to my child?
It's great to read to your child from their earliest months. Cuddle up and sing nursery rhymes, read a story with silly sound effects, or play peek-a-boo along with a book. This shows your baby how important books are to you, and that books come with love, fun and excitement.
Top tips for reading with your baby
- To a young baby, 'reading' means holding them in your arms and exploring a soft book.
- Start reading with your baby when they’re around three months old. For babies, reading is like play – so let them wave the book around.
- When your baby can sit up, choose light, sturdy board books with rounded corners, textures to feel and bright pictures to look at. From six months, babies love lift-the-flap books. From nine months, introduce noisy sound books. Go with whatever makes reading fun for both of you.
- Use the pictures as well as the words. Babies learn by doing, so say the words out loud as baby reaches for the pictures, to help build their vocabulary. Be relaxed about what books mean for a baby – a quick song or game with an open book still counts as reading!
How should I read to my child?
- Try to bring the book to life – talk about the characters, the pictures and everything that’s happening so that the story can really capture your child’s imagination.
- Don’t be afraid to try different voices and show off your acting skills. You might not win any Oscars, but your child will enjoy the story even more if you make a performance of it.
- Remember that your face says it all – so really go for it and exaggerate your normal expressions like a kids’ TV presenter. Children will love it.
- Emphasise repeated words and phrases (‘the big bad wolf’; ‘… blew, and blew, and blew the house down’). And encourage your child to say the words with you. This will help them to learn the language used in books.
- Turn off the TV so you can both concentrate on enjoying the book.
- Try audio books – they’re perfect for keeping the children entertained on car journeys, as well as a great way to build their understanding of stories and improve their listening skills.
How long should I read to my child for, and how often?
- Read to them for as long as they’re happy to listen. The older your child is, the longer you’re likely to be able to hold their attention.
- As for how often, there’s no right answer, but many experts say it helps to get into a routine. For school-age children, a bedtime story can be a nice way to spend time together and wind down after a busy day. For pre-school children, shorter bursts of reading throughout the day may be a good idea.