Ask Prof Mike: Reading to babies, making books a routine, and how to join a library

Published on: 04 April 2022

Every month, Writer in Residence Michael Rosen will answer your burning questions about encouraging strong reading habits in children.

How do I use books as part of a daily routine with a two year old?

The simplest thing to do is the oldest: we can sit with a child on our lap. The child looks at the book as we read the story out loud over the child's shoulder! This gives the child the full experience of the book as their book, while we, the adult, become a kind of 'voice over'. At the same time, the child has all the reassurance of being on the adult's lap. 

What's the point of reading to a baby that can't even talk! Isn't it better to wait until they can appreciate the story a bit more?

From the day a baby is born, they are soaking up the sounds, sights, smells, tastes and touch of the world around them. We say that learning how to speak and think are 'natural' but we should think of it more that these things are learned by the child because they are in an interesting world. Learning how to talk, and how to talk well, need a lot input from chatty, loving, interested people. There are lots of ways of doing this but the great thing about books is that gives the child something to focus on, to ask questions about, to tell us things about. What's more, a picture book asks of a child to do a lot of brain work (in a very pleasurable way) figuring out the different ways the pictures and the words they hear us read tell a story. There is a kind of mind-relay that goes on in the child's mind, relaying from picture to words and back again, figuring out what refers to what, who is what and why. 

Is it worth joining the library for my kids and how do I do it?

YES. You must. Just walk in and ask one of the librarians how to join and they'll tell you. It's simple, easy and you'll have access to 100s of books straightaway and look out for events for under-5s and notices about local theatre performances and the like. You'll also meet other parents, and your child will meet other children. 

Have you got a question for Prof Mike? Let us know on Twitter or via email.

Tips and advice

Get useful tips and advice about how to read as a family, setting up a great bedtime routine, and how to encourage reading in your school.

Have a look