Tips for Reading Aloud to Your Young Child (and Infant!)

I was recently asked by a friend of mine how to, well, physically, read to her nine month old. You know, at that age babies can be super grabby (I have one of those grabby nine month old’s myself…). My friend said that her daughter is constantly trying to grab the book from her which makes reading…challenging.

So just how do you read to your infant or young child? Here are some general tips that I hope you will find helpful!

Tips for reading to your infant and toddler:

  • Give your child something to hold to play with while you read. This could be another book, a teething toy or a random plastic cup you have lying around (I may or may not have done this lately…)
  • If your little one is particularly grabby, you can start by reading during feeding time (bottle or nursing). This might distract him/her enough not to grab the book but still enable him/her to pay some attention to the story and pictures.
  • Stick to short, simple board books with bright pictures of common objects. As your child gets older and his attention span improves you can read longer and longer books
  • Is your kid just a MAJOR Grabby McGrabberson and makes reading just impossible? Don’t stress out…this too shall pass. If my other tips aren’t cutting…try sticking to some Mother Goose Rhymes, finger plays, and SING SING SING!!! But, KEEP TRYING with those books! One day he will suddenly want to snuggle up and read that book without ingesting it…

My daughter E "reading" at 4 months ;)

General Tips for Reading to Your Child(ren)

  • Try to find a nice, comfortable place to sit to read. Make sure wherever you sit, that your child is positioned so that she can see the book’s pictures well.
  • Limit distractions. Turn off the TV and put down the crackberry and just concentrate on the book, your child, and the moment.
  • When possible, you may want to read the book to yourself first so you can get a “feel” for the tone and get to “know” the characters.
  • Before you read, introduce the book to your child and talk about the cover, BE EXCITED!
  • Read slowly so your child has time to really take in the story and the pictures
  • Read with ENTHUSIASM! If you are interested in the book, your child will be too!
  • Try using different voices for different characters. Don’t worry about sounding like a big dork, your children will LOVE IT!! 😉
  • Adjust your tone and pace based on the story content.
  • Have your children turn the pages when ever possible.
  • Point to the pictures of common objects, label them, and talk about them (Look! There’s a balloon! It’s in the sky!)
  • Encourage your child to participate in the story. Ask him to point to pictures, predict what is coming next, and explain what just happened.
  • Don’t overwhelm your young child with too many questions. Try to balance questions with statements.
  • Try to read a variety of subjects and authors
  • Don’t read books that you don’t like! Your child will sense it! (Another good reason to try to read a book before you read it to your child)
  • Be prepared: Young children love the SAME BOOKS OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  Boring for us sometimes, but GREAT for them! Repetition helps them LEARN LANGUAGE!
  • Have a book that has some great pictures but the story is a little too advanced for your little one? Simplify it! Just read the main points of each page and skip the rest…I have done this MANY MANY times!
  • Another great way to enjoy books with your children is to listen to books on “tape.” I personally LOVED these as a kid! (You know the ones “..turn the page when you hear the chimes , like this…“) We would go on trips and my parents would set me up with headphones, books, and, back then, a tape. Now a days you can get them on iTunes or CD.

Here is a great handout by Jim Trelease, the author of The Read Aloud-Handbook (which was a text book for one of my child development classes in college!) with some other reading aloud don’ts: A Dozen Don’ts to Remember When Reading Aloud. Check out more from Mr. Trelease on his site HERE

So get reading! And please, share YOUR reading tips with me!



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  1. Jennifer says

    Thanks for the tips!! :) i keep trying, as you have advised. However, my LO is just one of those Grabby McGrabersons. i gave her one book while reading another, and she throws the non-read one for the current/reading one. She just wants what I have! :) i even trying reading while nursing. Again – she wants what I have. (one of the few times the boob wasn’t enough of a distraction!)

    However, I do sing and talk to her all the time. We sing “real” songs and I make up songs to her all the time. Among her favorites is the “La la las” in Crocodile Rock, You Are My Sunshine, and “I love you V” (the “I love you Conrad, oh yes I do” from Bye Bye Birdie, but I changed it to my daughter’s name).

    I’ll keep on trying with the reading!

  2. Katie says

    Jennifer you are doing GREAT!!! 😀 If you can’t really read yet due to a McGrabberson, no worries. Singing and talking to her all the time, like you are, are helping her to learn language. The reading can some when she’s ready. Keep trying…and for now she can just look at the pictures and nibble on the books 😉

    And for the record, in my attempt to read my Ev (9 1/2 months) Goodnight Moon the other night…he INSISTED on turning the pages before I was able to finish reading most of them. Just keep it up! And thanks for reading and commenting!