Reading with your child

Sharing stories and encouraging imagination

Picking up a book and reading with your young child can be a very warm and loving experience. While you have their undying attention as they anticipate the next part of the story, it is a lovely way of strengthening the bond between a parent and their child and can help them become a reader for life.

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Reading with your baby 

It is never too early to start reading with your child, whether they are still in the womb or just been born, sharing a book already has an impact. Even though your baby may not understand what you are saying to them, by sharing a book, they can pick up the tones and rhythms in your voice. Studies have shown that children who were read to as newborn babies were more able to understand numeracy when they started school.

When you share a book with your baby, you will start to notice them respond to you in their little way and they will learn movement and actions. You may also notice that they will start to express emotion when listening to a story. This may be dependent on your tone of voice, which is what they will pick up from you. Your young baby will also learn many visuals from this age, when you have pattern and texture books, they will interact with the book and participate in the story time. Reading picture books allows them to understand a variety of shapes, letters and colours.

Making time for reading can help your child have a love for reading and books. It can also help you strengthen your bond and share those special moments together. 

Read our top tips of sharing books with your little ones

  • Use pattern and picture books with very young babies, as they will enjoy this.
  • Sharing stories helps strengthen the bond between a parent and a child.
  • Encourage all your friends and family to read books with your child.
  • Join the library as early as possible and visit the library as often as possible, your local library may have story time sessions. Click here to find out where your local library is.
  • Always have plenty of books around as they can be a great distraction if your baby is feeling overwhelmed or is unsettled.
  • Speak to your Health Visitor about your free BookStart baby pack.
  • Make up your own stories; maybe think about making your child the central character. This guide from the BBC website is very useful.
  • When your child is a bit older, you could help them write their own story for story time.
  • Encourage your child to hold the book themselves and if possible to turn the pages.
  • Ask your child to talk about the book, as this will help them with school readiness.
  • Talk to your child about the characters, the plot, etc. so they can understand the story and encourage them to think of different plot twists or endings. This will help them to learn more about real life relationships, issues or scenarios. 
  • Find out more from BookTrust who have lots of further support and advice on reading with your child.

Bedtime stories 

Getting the children off to sleep can sometimes be difficult, all the fuss of the evening routine and the fact that more often than not they don’t actually want to go to bed. But there is one bit that can feel really special and that’s reading or telling them a bedtime story.

Most children enjoy settling down with the comfort and security of hearing their parent's voice. If you’re telling them a story even better. It’s also a chance to have some quiet time together, away from all the earlier hassles of the day. If you don’t live in the same home as your children or are away a lot of the time, then bedtime is the perfect chance to squeeze in a few minutes when you can. Whether they are visiting you or you’re back after a long day at work, a few minutes together can be really rewarding.

  • If you enjoy reading, then ask your child to choose a book. If it has pictures show them to your child so they feel involved.
  • If you don’t like reading, or don’t have any storybooks to hand, then make one up! Children really like hearing new stories especially if they are the main character.
  • Make it up as you go along, you don’t have to have a beginning, middle and end already in mind.
  • Let your child get involved, encourage them to add bits to the story, they can be very creative!
  • Most of all – enjoy it! This is quality time with your child, so make the most of it.


Introducing babies and toddlers to picture books from a young age can help develop a real love of reading. Watch our video and learn fun ways to read with your child and grow your own little bookworm.

This page was updated in October 2018

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