Engaging children in books

Published on: 08 July 2015

Children's publisher and Bookstart Mum, Kate Hancock, blogs her tips for getting the most from reading with children.

Baby Boy Reading Board BooksThe Book Trust team met Kate at the London Book Fair in April and she has kindly agreed to share her insights as part of Children's Book Week.

When I first tell people that I have spent the past 15 years working in the wonderful world of children's books they usually enthusiastically share with me memories of their favourite books growing up and often ask for recommendations on new things to try with the children in their lives.

Children's books and finding new ways to engage children with reading and enjoying books is something I really love and becoming a mum has allowed me a whole new perspective on how babies and toddlers interact with books, stories and illustrations.

Sharing old favourites and discovering new and exciting ways of looking at books can be a hugely enjoyable and fun way of interacting with babies and children of any age. I know from talking to new parents and other adults however that the large selection of children's books now available in libraries and bookshops can sometimes seem a little overwhelming.

So here are some simple tips for getting the most out of reading with a baby or child:

  • It is never too early or too late to start sharing books with babies and children. Even very young babies enjoy looking at simple, bold illustrations and listening to your voice as you read or tell stories.
  • Think about the books you remember loving as a child – many are still available and it is really lovely to revisit them with children today. I have very fond memories of the brilliant Meg and Mog books and my son Albert has always really liked the bright, bold illustrations.
  • Have fun – try using silly voices, singing, tickling or even adding your own surprise ending to a familiar favourite. If a story seems too long for your child then just look at the pictures, pointing things out and maybe shortening the story. Sharing books should be fun for everyone so enjoy yourself.
  • Encourage friends, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and carers to share books with your baby or child so that everyone can join in the enjoyment of children's books.
  • The Bookstart website is a fantastic way to get recommendations and tips on reading with your child and is also a way of finding out about fun events in your local area.
  • Albert is a year old now and whilst he always enjoys being read to he is interacting with and exploring books for himself more and more. There are some really fantastic books available that encourage lots of interaction with touchy-feely, tactile pages; pop-ups and noise buttons.

Albert particularly likes lift-the-flap books and loves looking for the surprises on each page. Like many young toddlers his enthusiasm for these books can lead to torn (and often eaten!) pieces and sometimes frustration if he is unable to lift a particular page.

The brilliant 'Felty Flap' books by Georgie Birkett are great with lovely illustrations and bright, tactile, fabric flaps that are perfect for little fingers and can withstand the most enthusiastic attentions.

Books can easily be a really important part of every child's life and many of us have wonderful memories of sharing books and stories with loved-ones as children. There is a huge range of fun, exciting, interesting and beautiful children's books available that can be enjoyed by everyone and become a key part in making some of those special memories for the children in your life.

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