Studies have shown that reading with babies has lasting and far-reaching effects on literacy development.

Reading With Babies by Emma Apple

Add to that the bonding and cuddle time that sharing books can provide, the broad vocabulary exposure, and the beautiful art in picture books. Reading with babies is unquestionably one of the most valuable bonding experiences there is.

Having said that, if you’ve ever tried reading to a baby or toddler, you know it can sometimes be a discouraging, page ripping, baby wrestling, book eating experience! Here are some tips on how you can make reading with baby worthwhile, even when story time gets a bit chaotic.

Let baby help choose

Ok, hear me out. Sometimes you’re only pretending to let baby choose, I know. Sometimes they’ll reach for a book, and you tell them the name of the book and praise them for making a “choice”. As your baby gets nearer to 1, they’ll develop favorites and can actually choose which book they want. If they have a favorite, give them a choice between that and another book. Be prepared to read the favorite, every time.

Choose a different spot

Reading With Babies by Emma Apple

You have a special chair you sit in, but baby isn’t interested in cuddling on the chair to read today. Try laying on the bed or even standing up while reading a book. Recite a poem or story from heart if your hands are full, or just sing a lullaby. Hearing your voice, and a variety of words and tones is wonderful for baby’s language and social development. So change things up, but keep reading, keep talking, keep communicating.

You don’t always have to cuddle either. Especially when a baby is very small, they won’t be looking at the pictures. Lay them down somewhere safe and read the story with animated faces and big smiles so they can watch you while they listen.

Read half a book

Sometimes things start off well. But by the time you get to the middle of the book, or maybe just a couple of pages in, baby is restless and uninterested, or grumpy and ready for bed. It’s ok to end the story there. Don’t feel like you need to finish the story if the child isn’t interested. Try another book, the favorite book (again), or just try again tomorrow.

Reading with babies can sometimes be a page ripping, baby wrestling, book-eating experience! Here are some tips to help! Click To Tweet

Summarize the story (or just make up your own)

Treat it like a wordless picture book! Shorten sentences, summarize pages, or just describe what’s happening in the pictures. Ask baby where things are, then point them out. Make it your own, have fun with it!

Put baby down

Let’s face it, some babies just aren’t that cuddly. Sometimes, even if they are, they’d rather stand up, or sit next to you, or crawl around, or pull your hair… you get the idea. It’s ok if storytime isn’t cuddly. I particularly love picture books, so sometimes I just sit on the couch with one, reading to the room. The rest of the family might not admit it, but they love it when I do this too.

Read the same book – again

Reading With Babies by Emma Apple

It’s fun to have a variety! Introducing your baby to all the wonderful picture books on your shelf, and in your library bag. New words and new characters! The New shelf in the children’s library is my most favorite place. But sometimes, you just have to read the favorite (or the few selected favorites) if you’re both going to enjoy story time. Read it once, read it twice, read it every night for a month! To introduce new books, try adding a short new book first, and then end with the favorite.

Read your own book

Especially when babies are very small, it doesn’t matter so much about the story. The vocabulary, the intonation, the sound of your voice, and the connection between you. So try grabbing your e-reader or a book from your to-read pile, and read that aloud instead.

Skip the story

As many benefits and as much enjoyment as reading with babies can bring, sometimes it’s too much stress and story time just doesn’t work out. It’s better to skip the story, than to force it and make it a stressful experience. Wait until you’re both up to it, and try again then. Keep trying, but don’t beat yourself up if story time doesn’t always work out. You can also try an audiobook!

Reading with babies isn’t always fun, but it can still be a rewarding experience for both of you. Happy Reading!