Reading with your child

Sharing a book with a child is fun! It's a time for closeness, laughing and talking together – and it can also give children a flying start in life and help them become lifelong readers.

If you’re not feeling confident about reading aloud or sharing books, don’t worry – there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a story together. But if you’d like some tips, here are a few pointers to help you out.

It’s never too early to start

It’s never too early to start sharing books with them – they might not understand the words, but they will love cuddling up, hearing your voice, and looking at the pictures.

Sitting baby enjoying a book

  • Talk to your bump. Your baby can hear sounds as early as 18 weeks and talking regularly to your bump will help them recognise your voice and be comforted listening to you even before they’re born.
  • Give black and white books a go when they’re little. You might receive the Bookstart Newborn pack, which includes black and white images for you to share. These are perfect in the early days when their eyes are still developing.
  • In England and Wales, ask your health visitor or library about where you can pick up your free Bookstart Baby pack. It includes books, tips and advice to help you get started.
  • Join your local library. Libraries are full of great advice and recommendations, and you’ll have a new supply of books to enjoy. Your library may also host Rhymetimes and other sessions for little ones – you’ll be able to have fun and meet other families, too.
  • Get other family members involved. Storytime is something that everyone can enjoy, and it’s a great way to bond. For example, there are lots of books about the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren – maybe your little one would enjoy sharing one of those stories with their own nanny and granddad?

As your child gets a bit older

Sharing picture books can be a lot of fun – but don’t worry if your child gets distracted, chews the book or wanders off… that’s perfectly normal! Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of time in your busy day, either – just a few minutes can make a huge difference.

Mum and son reading together

Here are some more tips to help you enjoy storytime together:

  • Ask your child to choose what they’d like to read. They’ll feel more interested in the story if they’ve picked it out themselves. (And don’t worry if they keep returning to the same story, either!)
  • If you can, turn off the TV, radio and computer. It’s easier for both of you to enjoy the story without any other distractions.
  • Sit close together. You could encourage your child to hold the book themselves and turn the pages, too.
  • Take a look at the pictures. You don’t just have to read the words on the page. Maybe there’s something funny in the pictures that you can giggle about together, or perhaps your child enjoys guessing what will happen next.
  • Ask questions and talk about the book. Picture books can be a great way to talk through your child’s fears and worries, or to help them deal with their emotions. Give them space to talk, and ask how they feel about the situations in the story.
  • Have fun! There’s no right or wrong way to share a story – as long as you and your child are having fun. Don’t be afraid to act out situations or use funny voices… your little ones will love it!

Encouraging a love of reading

As children get older, with lots of other activities competing for their time, how can you encourage them to make time for reading?

Brother and sister reading at home

Here are some of our ideas:

  • Read yourself! It doesn’t matter what it is – pick up a newspaper or magazine, take a look at a cookery book, read a computer manual, enjoy some poetry or dive into a romance or detective novel. And get your children to join in – if you’re cooking, could they read the recipe? If you’re watching TV, can they read out the listings?
  • Give books as presents. And encourage your children and their friends to swap books with each other – it’ll give them a chance to read new stories, and get them all talking about what they’re reading.
  • Visit the local library together. It’s always fun choosing new books to read, and keep an eye out for special author events at the library or local bookshops – children love meeting their favourite authors. Jacqueline Wilson and Anthony Horowitz always have signing queues that are miles long!
  • Encourage children to carry a book at all times. That way, they’ll never be bored (this is something you can do, too!)
  • Have a family bookshelf. If you can, have bookshelves in your children’s bedrooms, too.
  • Keep reading together. Just because your children are older, it doesn’t mean you have to stop sharing stories – perhaps you could try the Harry Potter series or A Series of Unfortunate Events.
  • Don’t panic if your child reads the same book over and over again. Let’s be honest - we’ve all done it!

Download our reading guides

Reading with your child: 0-12 months

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Babies love looking at pictures and hearing your voice as you read to them. Check out our brilliant guide to sharing books with children aged 0-12 months, available in 22 languages.

Reading with your child: 3-4 years

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Just ten minutes shared reading a day can help your child grow into a happy, confident learner. Find out more with our guide to reading with children aged 3-4 years, available in 21 languages.

Reading with your child: 4-6 years

Download the booklet

Sharing books and stories can help children understand the world around them and develop key social and emotional skills. This handy booklet is available to download in 28 languages.

Additional needs guidance

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Explore our Bookstart Shine and Bookstart Touch guides to enjoying books and reading with deaf, blind or partially sighted children. Available in English only.

Guide for carers and foster families of children aged 3-7 years

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Information and practical tips for carers and foster families to help you make reading a part of your child’s everyday life.