Too busy for books?

Try these 5 tips to help engage your reluctant reader.

Learning Stages

By Candace Lindemann

Children's Author & Education Consultant

Candace Lindemann is a published children’s writer and educational consultant. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can also find Candace blogging at While Candace’s degrees prepared her for a career in education, she’s found that the best preparation for parenting is on-the-job training.

My first child was such a reader from birth that it came as a big surprise to me when my second baby would squirm and run away during story time.

Now he's three and loves books as much as his older sister! If your toddler resists reading, here are a few tips:

  1. Get moving! Jumping and dancing may seem like the opposite of quiet reading time but it is just the thing for convincing an active toddler that reading is fun. There are lots of books that describe action (wiggle your toes, hop like a bunny). Stand up and act out the descriptions from the book. There is no reason toddlers need to sit quietly for stories.
  2. LOL! Reading does not need to be serious. Make funny faces, use different voices, tap out the rhythmic passages, giggle at the silly parts, and communicate the joy of reading to your toddler. Have fun with it!
  3. Choose age-appropriate material. You may remember how much you loved Alice in Wonderland as a child--but that's a bit much for most toddlers. Even toddlers with large vocabularies may have trouble tracking story lines. So, choose books with lots of rhymes and fun sounds to capture the interest of tots. Longer picture books may still be too overwhelming for young toddlers. Generally, board books are a safe bet and can stand up to the rougher touch of a toddler. 
  4. Break free of the page. As adults, we logically expect to start on page one and continue reading to the end. Kids are new to the whole "book" concept and may see this strange object as a toy. Explore the book. Open it, shut it, turn it upside down. Re-read the same page 10 times if your toddler keeps turning to it. Describe the illustrations. Ask questions, even if your toddler cannot yet answer. And put the book away if he wants to stop or read a different one...even if you have not finished the first book. Thankfully, he is years away from book reports and grades and stickers for pages read. Read whatever he wants to read, even if it just the author's name 20 times. Don't forget, reading is also not just books!
  5. Make reading special. Develop a reading ritual with your little one. Cuddle up and enjoy the time. Your toddler will probably not remember these first books but he will flourish in your loving attention and eventually connect that pleasure with reading.

Finally, never force reading on a toddler. Pushing books or insisting on a serious tone will only backfire. Just keep reading and enjoying your time with your child and you will inspire a lifelong love of reading!