How to Read “With” Children: Reading Tips for Birth-Age 5 Children

Bring books to life by reading “with” children! Engaging with children around reading is an essential tool for brain development that helps spark a child’s imagination and creates a bonding and learning experience. You don’t have to be a great reader to create a love of reading in your child. When exposed to books, children learn to think and act like readers — without even knowing it. Below are tips for reading with birth to age five children that will help them develop skills in becoming lifelong learners.


Children 0-24 Months

  • Help your baby to explore the book. Let your baby turn the pages, grab, or even chew on it.
  • Point out interesting pictures and take the time to ask questions as you read. Say, “Look at the butterfly.” Cover it and ask, “Where is the butterfly?” Uncover it and say, “Peek-a-boo butterfly!”
  • Stay on a page for as long as your baby is interested. Turn the page or stop reading when your baby looks away or seems tired or bored.
  • Read with joy and excitement. Use different voices for different characters.
  • Ask questions your child can answer by pointing. You can say, “Where’s the doggie?” or “Where’s the happy baby?” or “Who says meow?”
  • Imitate the sounds your child makes while looking at a picture. Then add a very short phrase, such as, “Moo, the cow says moo.” Copy your reactions to the book you are enjoying together.
  • Speaking in slow, short sentences and waiting for your child to take a turn talking helps him understand.
  • Respond to all of your baby’s gestures.
  • When speaking to your baby, use a slow pace, clear pronunciation and repetition.
  • Give babies time to respond when talking to them, either through facial expressions, sounds or body movements.
  • Hold, rock, and soothingly pat and bounce your baby when he or she cries or fusses, as they are often looking for engagement with you.
  • At a very young age, babies communicate through facial expressions, eye contact, and sounds, like cooing and crying. If you hear your baby make a sound, repeat it and wait for him or her to make another.
  • Gestures and body movements are also used by babies to communicate before they are able to speak. Tell your baby what he or she is looking at or doing and what you are doing.
  • Babies tend to pick up on how their loved ones are feeling. Taking good care of yourself and keeping your anxiety levels down can also be an important way to take care of your baby.
  • Sometimes babies aren’t in the mood to talk or vocalize — even babies might turn away, close their eyes, or become fussy or irritable. If this happens, let your little one be or just try cuddling.

Children 2-3 Years Old

  • Cuddle up with your child on your lap.
  • Look at your child as you read.
  • Let your child lead.
  • Ask your child to point out things in the pictures and talk about them.
  • Use the pictures to teach new words. Say, “See the trumpet? A trumpet is a loud instrument that makes music.” Then pretend to play the trumpet.
  • Ask questions about the story. “What are the bears doing in this picture?” Pause and then help your child answer. Leave room for your child to make things up.
  • Act out parts of the story.
  • Use the story to start a conversation about something you and your child have done together.
  • Start a conversation by repeating an important word your child has just said and wait for your child to say something more.
  • Read with joy and enthusiasm! Use different voices for different characters.
  • Count pictures and wait for your child to repeat the numbers after you.
  • Let your toddler give a picture a name; then add a comment like: “Yes, a plane! The plane is flying. The plane is flying in the sky.”
  • Help your child pretend to be a character in a book. You can pretend to feed a baby or be puppies, barking and running after each other.

Children 4-5 Years Old

  • Read with expression, using different voices for different characters.
  • Emphasize rhythms and rhymes in stories.
  • Encourage your child to repeat what you say, comment on it, and ask questions.
  • Place books in a child-accessible area, and give him a chance to choose his own books for story-time.
  • Read stories again and again.
  • Take the opportunity to familiarize your child with the alphabet.
  • Ask your child to tell you about the pictures and the story.
  • Point out colors, shapes, numbers, and letters and ask him to find them in the books you are reading together.
  • Point out written words in the world around you, like on traffic signs and on food labels in the grocery store.
  • Ask your child to find a new word each time you go out together.