Rod Campbell's top tips for reading aloud to children

Published on: 28 April 2021 Author: Rod Campbell

Reading aloud to children for the first time can be daunting - especially if they're wrigglers, book-chewers, or just want to play! Dear Zoo author Rod Campbell shares his top tips for sharing reading time with little ones.

Dear Zoo author Rod Campbell and the cover of Look After UsDear Zoo author Rod Campbell and the cover of Look After Us

Reading to your child is very special; it’s a moment of closeness for both of you and a time to share a book together without any expectations except enjoyment. Here are a few things that might help:

  • Try to find a quiet time in your day when you are relaxed and everything is calm so the baby/child is calm too and not distracted – just the two of you ready to share a special time together. (Please do turn your mobile off – it’s only for 10-15 minutes!)
  • If it can be the same time every day so much the better. Children respond to routine and will look forward to each ‘reading together’ time.
  • Find a cosy corner and have your child on your lap or if a bit older, by your side, so you are both looking down at the book with your focus on the book and the child.
  • If you haven’t read aloud before and feel a bit silly, remember your child is used to your voice and finds it friendly and calming so don’t worry about how it sounds, they will love it.  You’ll be fine, and more confident each time you read together.
  • It’s important to choose a book that’s right for the child. Their world is quite small but of huge interest to them so books with children and animals or about their daily routines are always of interest as the child can relate what they see and hear to their own experiences.
  •  Apart from reading the text, having conversations about what you both can see on the page is really important – and ask questions about where the animal is hiding before you or they lift the flap, or before turning the next page ask them what do they think happens next. This sort of engagement will make ‘reading’ a book a fun experience they will want to have again.
  • It doesn’t matter if your child turns the page back or skips forward, they’re trying to familiarise themselves with what they have seen or simply enjoying turning the page!
  • Do take your time and remember there really are no rules other than what interests the child and sharing the experience together.
  • Go through the book as often as the child wants.
  • Don’t worry if babies chew the book (a smallish board book preferably!) – they do this to everything to find out about it. Show them how the pages can be turned over – they will see how it’s done and know themselves the next time and insist on doing it alone!
  • Board books with textures will involve the very youngest.
  • And remember, reading together and talking together is an important step on the path to your child finally being able to read themselves. If you start young with your baby, when they come to try to read themselves they will be familiar with so many of the words they will have heard you say to them many, many times while reading together, and you will be amazed!

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