Growing Kids Who Read: Tips for Reading With Young Children

Growing Kids Who Read: Tips for reading with young children

We started reading early with Immy. Once the haze of the first few weeks with a newborn wore off and we all seemed to be developing an understanding of how to get along, we started to read together. I can’t remember exactly when it was that our morning reading routine began, I think she was between 10 and 11 weeks old, and it continues today.

Every morning, she wakes up and comes into our bed for her morning feed and then we sit together in bed and read. Every morning. On weekends or mornings when he doesn’t have to rush out the door, Dad 101 joins us in our reading ritual. When we first started, it would only be one very short story and then I would sing nursery rhymes and simple actions songs and move her arms and legs as actions to the words. Now, it is three, four, or sometimes even, five stories. Now it is sometimes even the same story, three, four or even five times!

Time spent reading together is an important first step in the process of growing children with a passion for reading. The closeness to you as they sit on your lap or by your side, listening to your voice, listening to the sounds of new words, looking at interesting pictures representing such a wide, wide world of possibilities; this experience creates positive memories associated with books.

Tips for Reading with Young Children
1. Read to your child with enjoyment in your voice (yes, even if you can recite the words by heart), use interesting voices to represent the characters, make the many animal noises that enhance the tale, pause for effect as the drama unfolds. Immy loves reading, Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy. Why? It is all about the climactic pause before “Scarface Claw, the toughest tom in town,” is revealed with dramatic fervor (think of the deep, menacing ominous-sounding voice of the villainous Dr Claw from the original Inspector Gadget cartoon!)

2. As you read, respond to the text by making observations or questioning aloud what is happening in the book. Point out interesting details in the illustrations to your child. If it is a lift-the-flap book, encourage your child to lift the flap independently, or in books with fun textures, talk to you child about what you (and they) can feel. For older children, ask them what they think will happen next or what they would do if they were in a particular predicament.

3. Litter your home with books. We currently have picture books in both bedrooms, the study, the living room, the kitchen and the car. We regularly take books outside. If you are worried about the ‘clutter’ of having books everywhere, invest in some nice baskets or magazine racks to keep them in.

4. Teach your child from the beginning to respect books. Immy was not allowed to put paper books in her mouth, not even board books. We have taught her how to turn pages carefully and ask her to put the books away when she is finished reading them. At first I was worried that her books would be torn by immature fingers or that if I turned my back she would damage their fragile pages but from about 13 months of age I learnt to trust her to independently ‘read’ all of her books (not just her board books); seeing her passion for books, she would fill our day with books and stories, this one and that one, or that one again and again, the alternative was me sitting on the floor reading with her all day long so how could I not!

5. Whether from the bookshop, the local library, or even Ebay, choose a myriad of children’s books to enjoy together. There are so many fabulous classic picture books to choose from. If you are not sure which to choose, look for online recommendations or look at your National Book Awards contenders; in Australia we have the Children’s Book Council of Australia which awards the annual Book of the Year Award and in the process produces annual lists of notable mentions in categories from picture books through to young adult selections.

Check out our lists of 50 Classic Kids Picture Books and 50 Childhood Favourites from the 70s & 80s.

6. When choosing books,

  • Follow Squigglemum’s advice and choose books with an amount of text per page appropriate to your child’s concentration span. Paragraphs are a no go with most little ones. Looks also at the storyline; is it engaging? Will your child relate?
  • Look for fun or interesting illustrations. I love Eric Carle’s use of collage in classics like The Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider, the simplicity of the illustrations in Pat Hutchin’s Titch books, the hidden gems in Graeme Base’s Animalia illustrations.
  • Don’t be afraid of simple verse. Cockadoodledoo! Farmyard Hullaballoo!, Commotion in the Ocean and Rumble in the Jungle (all by Giles Andreae) are wonderful books for introducing poetry, rhyme and verse to children.
  • Find books that relate to your child’s interests. This is also an easy way to introduce your child to non fiction texts.
  • Have fun introducing ‘how to’ books to your child. There are easy to use books about cooking with kids, gardening and art materials.
  • Don’t forget magazines and catalogues can make for interesting reading too.

7. The local library is a wonderful source of books. Look for a library near you that hosts storytime for preschoolers or toddlers, or literature-based holiday activities for school aged children.

8. Keep reading to your children, even as they get older. I fondly remember sleepovers with my cousins at my Nanna and Pop’s, Nanna would read to us all once we were snuggled in our beds. I can picture us when I was about 10 or 11 years old and Nanna was reading us a novel, begging for ‘just one more chapter’ before we went to sleep.

There are many elements involved in growing a child who reads. But to begin we must first, germinate the seed and I can think of no better way of doing this than by taking a few moments in each day to read together.


  1. SquiggleMum says:

    Fab post Christie. You know I'm a big-time book loving mama. Have already linked up your post 🙂 Happy Book Week!!

  2. Couldn't agree more, and I remember sitting in your bed reading to Immy when I used to visit you in Sydney and she wasn't very old at all. You had the black and white (with a splash of yellow) fabric book. My other grandchild also loves books and I used to read to her every time she came here until she was about 11 and wanted to read on her own. Her first favourite was 'There's a Spider in the Kitchen' a small cheap rhyming book. I started reading it to her when she was about 3 and continued until she was about 6. I ended up knowing it by heart and recited it to her when she was in a coma after a car accident – I hoped that hearing her favourite story would help. It was the first book she asked for when she was eventually awake.

  3. Monica Eve says:

    Stumbled across your blog via a Twitter post touting your ingenious DIY $10 Kid's Kitchen. I have bookmarked your site and will be back again and again!

    My husband and I read to our 3-year old son every day. Such a soothing way to head off to nap and bedtime. Harry McClary is one of our favorite characters too. I'll be taking your advice and beef up the voice of Scarface Claw the next time we read Scattercat!

    Keep up the wonderful, inspiring posts.

  4. I had no idea before having Baby Bea how much I'd love making up voices for every character in her books. If this kid doesn't get the drama bug then I haven't done my job.

  5. m a m a :: m i l i e u says:

    I am so happy that you devoted so much of your blogspace to reading. Myself, a former instructor of college english adn literature, I truly see the value and irreplacable experiences derived from books.

    We began reading to our little Noah in the womb, then at the hospital and now several times a day! I hope that he continues showing as much interest in reading as he does now.

    Love your blog, mama!

  6. Busy Brissy Mum says:

    We LOVE books in our house! Miss M will read anytime but it's reading with Daddy at night that is the most special time. What I am enjoying at the moment is hearing Daddy and Miss M telling stories without books. This started one Saturday before daytime sleep and now Daddy has to tell Miss M the story of Big Eddie the dinosaur over and over and over and over………

  7. Christie Burnett says:

    Thank you all for sharing, glad to see there are so many Mums (and a grandmum) passionate about reading with kids.

    SquiggleMum, thanks for the link love.
    Kakka, I had forgotten about you reading that to C when she was in the coma, a timely reminder.
    Monica, thanks for visiting (and staying) and good luck with Scarface Claw!
    JJ, she is so lucky to have inherited your passion for the dramatic.
    Mama Mulieu, I tried reading when Immy was in utero but felt a bit silly but didn't stick with it.
    BBM, love your storytelling anecdote. I have a whole other post in the back of my mind about this very topic.

  8. •´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Trish.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• says:

    Excellent post .My boys are a big rough on books …one has ripped many a lift your flap book.
    As much as I try to get them to look after them I can't watch them both at once.
    I would rather have them love books than see them sitting pristine on the shelf.
    We love our bedtime story ritual.

  9. The Book Chook says:

    My favourite story about bedtime reading was the night I got my son to hold the book because my arms were so tired after lots of tunnel ball practice. He matter-of-factly began to read aloud. Me: "Whoa, why didn't you tell me you could read?" Him: "But you always hold the book!"

  10. Hi! We are a family of readers too 🙂

    Started out with my boy and now that I'm preggers with a girl, she's been getting a huge dose of Thomas the Tank Engine and other books on cars, trucks and trains LOL

    I am looking forward to reading books on animals and other topics my boy isn't THAT interested in to achieve a balance between the two!

  11. Anonymous says:

    My favourite reading memory is actually from school. When I was about 6 or 7 (about 16 years ago!) we had a teacher who, once a week, would read to a large group of us. She put an old fashion bonnet on her head that would have been worn to bed and lit a candle (I am sure this wouldn't happen in schools today!). The ritual was amazing and I can still remember the faint smell of candle smoke.

    Love your blog by the way!

  12. Hope you’re OK, Christie. x
    It’s Baby Holly’s first birthday today and I bought her a copy of the new pop-up version of Guess How Much I Love You? It’s a book I got out from the library when Ella was a bub, but she never really got into it. It’s interesting seeing how much more engaged Holly is with the book via the pop-up elements! 🙂

  13. SquiggleMum says:

    Hehehe… see, I was with you back then. Rest up. xx

  14. I love to hear about others reading to their small children. We started reading to my little girl before she was born and have books all through the house. Our ritual revolves around the ‘reading chair’ – a single couch by a window upstairs. We snuggle up before bed under the ‘reading quilt’, look out the window for the moon and any cats prowling in the park across the street, and read a few stories. No matter how many books we’ve read that nights she always wants ‘one more’ 🙂 She has just turned two and now grabs a book and heads to the chair during the day when she’s in need of some quiet time, sometimes ‘reading’ a book to her toys.

  15. Hi – I’m just starting out on my own blogging experience (still very early days for me!) but I just wanted to say how informative and engaging your posts are. I stumbled upon you through facebook and now I jump on your posts whenever I see them.

    I have read to both of my children since they were born and stories are sacrosanct in our house. It never ceases to amaze me that even if my kids are happily playing or watching TV, as soon as I say, “Let’s go downstairs for stories” they will gaily head to their rooms. If I slip up and say “Let’s head off to bed” you should hear the gripes!
    Thanks again for all your great posts. Bec

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