Tips for Reading to Your Kids

Reading to your kids plays a big role in their development. Listening to their parents read helps develop their language skills and improves a child’s literacy. Starting early can set them on the right path for a bright future. 

How to Read to Your Kids

Expose them to reading early. Children start to learn a language early in life. Parents play a big role in their child’s early learning. Children learn literacy skills at home — this is how they begin to make sense of the world.

You can start reading to your kids when they are babies. Find books that keep them entertained. Picture books are great for babies. As your kid gets older, find books with textures and stories that excite them. 

Start with storybooks. Reading storybooks to your kids is an important part of developing their knowledge. Reading storybooks to preschoolers has been linked to language growth, developing literacy, and eventual success in reading. Sharing storybooks with your kids encourages them to read books on their own. 

When reading storybooks, ask your child questions about what they think will happen next. This lets them imagine the story, picturing characters and events in their mind. They can think about the story and ask their own questions about what’s going on. This gets them to start thinking critically, even at a young age. 

Broaden their horizons. Reading books slightly above their level and saying the words out loud helps develop your child's vocabulary over time. Pick out all kinds of stories. Poetry, fairy tales, and shorter chapter books are good for preschoolers and toddlers. Even if they can't read the content themselves, listening to you will help them develop their interest and increase their attention span. 

Stay involved. Reading with your kids gives you the chance to help them practice their skills. Let them read aloud to you and show interest in what they’ve been learning. Even if your child can read by themselves, it helps if you continue to read out loud to them. 

Give them a choice. Let your child choose what books they want to read. Giving them the freedom to pick their reading material for themselves can keep them engaged. If your child is choosing books that are too easy for their age or reading level, you can alternate book choices every other night to make sure they are still growing their skills. 

Continued

Also, let your child have some control over who reads which parts of the story. They may want to act out the book. If this keeps their interest, then you should let them do it. Keep reading engaging and fun! You don’t want to make it feel like a chore they have to complete every night. 

Turn off distractions. Having the TV on or noise in the background might be comforting, but it can be very distracting for kids during reading time. Turning your phone on “do not disturb” mode while reading can help keep you from checking calls or texts. You will be able to give your child all of your attention, and your kid will be able to focus on the story when all distractions are removed.

Read everywhere. There are always opportunities for kids to read. Point out different places that your child can read from, such as billboards, magazines, or their toy packaging. Getting your child to notice details will help them develop other skills as well.

Make reading fun and let them sound out what they see. Don’t pressure them to get it right. Instead, encourage your kids to start with what they know. If they can’t get it, give them some help so they don’t get frustrated. 

Let them move if they want. If you're reading to a younger child, you may have trouble keeping them still.  They may help you turn the page or listen to a page or two, then move on to the next thing. Even if you feel discouraged, keep the book out and continue the story. Your child's attention span will get longer as they get older. 

Share favorites.  Once your child picks out a favorite, they'll want to hear it over and over again. It's okay to repeat lines, chapters, or books. You may even want to introduce your child to the books you loved as a child. What's most important is encouraging their curiosity and building their literacy skills early on, even if you have to read the same book every night for a week.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

BookTrust: “Reading with your child.”

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development: “Reading to Young Children: A Head-Start in Life.”

KidsHealth: “Toddler Reading Time.”

Paediatrics & Child Health: “A parent’s guide to promoting reading in children.”

SAGE Open: “The Sooner, the Better: Early Reading to Children.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Pregnancy & Parenting Tips In Your Inbox

Doctor-approved information to keep you and your family healthy and happy.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.