Tips for Reading to Babies and Young Children

Lorna Flowers

Before becoming a mother, I would have scoffed at parents who didn’t read to their children. I was a book kid and still love reading. My fondest childhood memories are of being read to at bedtime and, eventually, hiding under my covers to finish a chapter book after bedtime (by light of my glowworm, of course).

I read aloud to my daughter almost every night while pregnant (The Wind and the Willows). But now with a toddler, I can completely understand how parents would give up on reading to their kids. It is difficult to read to babies, especially when they are very young.  (Of course most things worthwhile are not easy.)  When I read to my daughter I often feel like I am reading to myself. For a parent who lacks spare time, this could easily be a deterrent from prioritizing reading.

I tried discussing my frustration with others when my daughter was very young.  I was often met with blank stares or what I thought was judgment (which probably wasn’t judgment, but all new moms have a sensitive judgment radar). Often the answer was, “As long as you are reading,” but that didn’t make me feel better. I am a person who wants a plan. I want to know other people have experienced my same struggle. 

I feel like my little family has just turned a corner in reading aloud. Thankfully, I was determined and persevered, because it took about 14 months to not feel like a reading aloud failure. It was HARD. So I have put together a few tips to encourage reading to babies and young toddlers. Maybe this will help another frustrated new mom.


Feel like you are reading to yourself? Use this as an opportunity to read something you enjoy as well. I am currently re-reading the Narnia series to my daughter, but have thought about using the opportunity to read any book on my re-reading list. Albeit, Narnia is going to take me forever since I only read five minutes of the book at a time. It is a lesson in patience FOR ME. While you may think this is a waste of time, take 15 minutes a day to relax with your child. Reading to my daughter doesn’t look like bedtime in a sitcom or something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. I let that mental picture of motherhood go.


Don’t give up on the act of reading because your child wants you to skip pages or end a book midway to switch to another book. Since young toddlers cannot fully communicate, these actions are just a part of them trying to tell us something. I don’t know what they are trying to tell us. Roll with it.  They will eventually learn to sit through a whole book.


When children are in the rip-everything or put-everything-in-their-mouth phase, give them books they can chew. The Indestructibles series was great for this in the first year of my child’s life. I even brought them to the library’s story time for fear of my daughter eating library books. Now we use mini (about 3” square) board books as she wants to be holding and turning pages. I still don’t trust her to not destroy a paper-paged book.


Make books easily accessible, but keep special paper-paged books tucked away. If you are constantly pulling books away from your curious child (for fear of destruction), your child is missing out on the opportunity to explore and enjoy books. Keep board books easily accessible so your child can explore books freely. I suggest a basket full of board books, as it picks up easily and toddlers also love unpacking and repacking baskets. You can find great deals on board books at consignment sales.


Don’t force reading into a particular part of your daily routine. I was really stuck on the concept of reading before bedtime, as this was how I grew up. When I forced this time slot, we had meltdowns and this made me think she simply hated reading time. It just wasn’t the right time for her. Around 9-months-old we realized book time worked before bath time. We also read throughout the day. Don’t think you are failing as a parent reader because you don’t have a set time for books.  Any reading is better than no reading.

 What tips would you add?



Tips For Reading To Babies & Young Children by Always Be Flowers

Lorna Flowers wears many hats: mother, artist, milliner, writer, and gardener. Always Be Flowers is her place to share inspiration, creativity, and musings of motherhood. She is new to mothering and spends her days creating, playing, and making sure her daughter gets dirty exploring the world.