Reading with your child
Sharing a book with a child is fun - it's a time for closeness, laughing and talking together. It can also give children a flying start in life and help them become lifelong readers.
But not everyone is confident with books and reading aloud, so BookTrust has produced some handy tips and advice to help you get the most out of reading together. And remember, there's no right or wrong way to do it - and it's never too early to start.
Tips for reading with children of any age
- Set aside some time
Find somewhere quiet without any distractions - turn off the TV/radio/computer.
- Ask your child to choose a book
Sharing books they have chosen shows you care what they think and that their opinion matters. This means they are more likely to engage with the book.
- Sit close together
Encourage your child to hold the book themselves and/or turn the pages.
- Point to the pictures
If there are illustrations, relate them to something your child knows. Ask them to describe the characters or situation or what will happen next. Encourage them to tell you the story by looking at the pictures.
- Encourage your child to talk about the book
Talking about the characters and their dilemmas helps children understand relationships and is an excellent way for you to get to know each other or discuss difficult issues. Give your child plenty of time to respond. Ask them what will happen next, how a character might be feeling or how the book makes them feel.
- And lastly, above all - make it fun!
It doesn't matter how you read with a child, as long as you both enjoy the time together. Don't be afraid to use funny voices - children love this!
It's never too early to start reading with your baby
Here are some ways you can try to share stories and rhymes with your child every day.
- Sing rhymes and tell stories to your unborn baby
They can hear you from around 18 weeks, and will recognise your voice before they are born.
- It's good to start sharing stories, books and rhymes with your child from as early an age as possible
Babies don’t need to understand all the words, they will just love to listen to your voice, look at the pictures and hold the books.
- Reading books, talking about the pictures and cuddling up close together will help you build a strong and loving relationship with your child
Everyone in the family can join in: dads, mums, care givers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles.
- Having a baby is tiring and demanding
Taking time out every day to enjoy a story, book or rhyme will give you and your child time to escape the everyday, enjoy each other’s company and get to know each other better.
- Ask your health visitor about your free Bookstart Baby pack and your local library about your free Bookstart Treasure pack. If you live in Wales, you can ask your health visitor about your free Bookstart Baby pack and Bookstart Early Years pack.
You will get free books and lots of good tips and advice to get started.
- Join your library as soon as you can
Librarians give great book advice and recommendations. And libraries have more books than you could ever own!
- It's important to have books in the home
If you really enjoy a library book, try to get hold of a copy to keep. You can also ask family and friends to mark every birthday or special occasion with the gift of a book for your child.
- Get other family members involved. Reading with grandparents, for example, can be a lovely way to bond, connect and snuggle. There are even lots of books out there about the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, whch could be extra sweet to share. Gransnet, a grandparenting forum, is a good place for grandparents to seek advice about reading and other topics.
Free tips and guidance in up to 28 languages
BookTrust has put together a range of booklets full of tips and advice on getting the most out of sharing books together, including tips for reading with children who have additional needs and guidance in up to 28 languages.
Go straight to the English versions of: Reading with your child 0-12 months, Reading with your child 3-4 years, and Reading with your child 4-6 years.
Families in Wales can go straight to: Bookstart in Wales: Reading with your child 0-12 months - English and Bookstart in Wales: Reading with your child 18-36 months - English.
Alternatively, click on the links below to view and download the booklets in up to 28 languages.
- We also have videos to show you how to read with children, booklists to get you started, and more.
- You can also try out our free online storybooks, which offer tips as you read.
- Alison David, research director at Egmont, has also written a parent's guide on how to Help Your Child Love Reading.
Reading with your child: 0-12 months
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 20 languages.
Reading with your child: 3-4 years
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 20 languages.
Reading with your child: 4-6 years
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
Explore our guides to enjoying books and reading with deaf, blind or partially sighted children. Please note: Bookshine and Booktouch packs are available in England only.