Three Tips to Read Aloud to Your Child

As with many healthy habits, starting to read aloud to your child begins with setting up a routine through small steps that you mindfully repeat. Even if you already read to your child before bed, you might find yourself rushing the process to get it done so you can move on with your own nighttime to-dos. If reading isn’t part of your daily routine—or if you want to make it a more positive experience—here are three tips for making the most of read-aloud time:

  1. Start early and read often. Reading to babies helps build bonds, vocabulary, and habits. If reading a story is part of the bedtime routine from infancy or toddlerhood, your child will take the lead in making sure this happens every night. Once your routine is established, you’ll find that reading aloud becomes as ingrained in your nightly routine as bath time or brushing your teeth.
  2. Read the pictures. Illustrations are visual clues that can help kids build their vocabulary and their emotional toolkit. Before reading a book, take a “picture walk” through the pages. Look at the characters and the setting and make predictions about what might happen. While reading, pause to look at the characters’ body language and ask, How do you think she’s feeling right now? Reading through pictures, which children can interpret long before they can master all the words in the book, also helps to engage them in the story and start engaging with what’s on the page—eventually encouraging them to read the words too.
  3. Press the pause button. Some nights, it’s tempting to rush through books on the way to “lights out.” But sometimes, I press the pause button before turning the page. Take time to look at a picture, ask a question or share reactions. Help kids make connections between what they read and the world around them. For example:
  • The grandma in this story reminds me of your grandma. They both love making pies and telling stories.
  • Hey, she has brown eyes and loves dinosaurs—just like you!
  • Look at all those tall buildings! It looks a little bit like New York City, where your uncle lives.
  • He seems nervous about the first day of school. Do you remember your first day of school?
  • There’s a bear in this story! What other stories have we read about bears?

Using these talking points as a moment of pause also encourages kids to engage more deeply with the text and start to think about the connections between stories and their own lives. This helps to develop important psychological milestones and skills like empathy.