By Hilary Stempel, MD, MPH
Snuggling with my twins and reading books together as part of their bedtime routine always fills me with joy. Sometimes there are lots of wiggles, book pages read out of order, or the same favorite book is read for weeks on end. Still, I love seeing them engage in different ways as they get older.
As a practicing pediatrician, I talk about reading at every check up. I’m always surprised how often I hear from families “my kids don’t like books.” When I hear this, I think about techniques to make incorporating books into everyone’s day simpler and more enjoyable.
Books and kids can seem to be a challenge - babies just want to eat the book, toddlers want to throw, rip, or color on books, and older kids may be more interested in something else. Yet, this is all normal and part of the process of bringing books into your day.
Here are some tips to encourage reading together:
Make it easy. Have books in different rooms in your home so it’s always easy to pick up a book and flip through a few pages. Keep them where kids can easily and safely reach them.
Start early. Young babies like to see pictures with contrasting colors and shapes. Older babies enjoy chomping on books or turning the pages. Eating board book pages is expected and a perfect way for babies to explore a book.
Change up what “reading” looks like. If you’re tired of reading the same words, make up your own story! Or, when I need a change, I choose a “theme” for reading books. Sometimes we’ll search for colors, body parts, or animals in the pictures of books. This keeps it interactive for everyone.
Make up silly voices. Part of reading to babies and young children is for them to hear more words. Kids learn language by hearing new words and reading in fun voices is a perfect way to do this.
Choose different books for different ages. Babies love bold colors and toddlers love books with flaps. All kids enjoy books with different textures and pictures of other kids.
Take a trip to your library. Librarians can give you ideas of books children of all ages will enjoy.
Model reading. When your child watches you read a book, they'll be more interested in doing it too!
It’s never too late to start reading with your child. Expect that reading “sessions” will be only a few minutes at first. As you keep books around your home and bring them into your routine, you’ll find your children will enjoy books more and more. And, like all things with kids, expect times where your kids may be less interested and then much more interested in engaging with reading and books.
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