Help! It’s hard reading to my child! Here’s a guide for reading to your child.

Let’s face it. Some parents just don’t enjoy reading. Maybe you hate reading aloud because you don’t think you’re a good reader. Or maybe you think those videos on the tablet can read to your child better than you can. Yet, your child still begs, “Read to me!” So you sigh and brace yourself for what you consider torture: reading aloud. Wouldn’t it be great to have a guide for reading to your child?

So, here’s a handy guide for reading to your child along with some tips to make reading aloud more fun. You’ll see that reading to your child can be a fun and rewarding activity for both of you! And the rewards for your child far outweigh your own.

Reading to your child is the most important thing you can do to help him be successful in school.

Many studies have shown the clear link between early literacy and later success in school. According to researchers, children with little knowledge of books before they enter school can become “at risk students” in later years. By reading to your child, you are developing those important literacy skills that he will use in school and beyond. These skills are called emergent literacy skills.

What are emergent literacy skills?

Emergent literacy skills are the skills that children need to develop before learning to read and write. When you read to your child, you are helping her:

  • learn to recognize letters of the alphabet
  • understand that print represents the spoken word
  • learn how to hold books and turn pages
  • follow story structures (beginning, middle, end)
  • understand sequences of events (first, next, last)
  • become aware of sounds of letters
  • recognize rhymes and syllables of words
  • learn new words and their meanings
  • understand how sentences are formed

All are important emergent literacy skills. And, children can learn some of these through play and other activities in addition to reading aloud.

But one particular skill is tied closely to reading aloud: learning new words.

You might think that your everyday speech can help to build your child’s vocabulary. And it can…but not as much as reading aloud. One recent study proves that reading books provides many more opportunities for your child to learn new words. In fact, picture books usually include words that aren’t found in everyday conversations. And studies show that children with a large vocabulary learn to read more easily in school.

So, the benefits of reading aloud are pretty clear. What more do you need from us to convince you that reading to your child is a positive force?

Well, we know that reading aloud is still difficult—or not as enjoyable—for many parents. So, here are 5 tips for you, the parent who cringes when her child brings her a book to read.

Five tips for parents who don’t enjoy reading aloud

1. Prepare ahead of reading time.
Familiarize yourself with your child’s books. Think of ways you can make each book more fun for you. Here are some ideas:

  • Think of character voices you can use when reading aloud.
  • Look at the pictures or illustrations and note ones that you might point out to your child when reading. For example, you might point out a frog if your child likes frogs.
  • Think of ways to relate the book to your child’s own life—or your own life. A book about the ocean might spark a discussion about a recent vacation, for example.

2. Play with words to make reading more fun.
For some parents, it’s more fun to read rhyming or sing-along books. So, add some rhyming books or sing-along books to your collection. Books with fingerplays are also fun to read to children. Here are some examples of books with rhyming words, songs, and fingerplays:

3. Add in some math skills.
If you’re better at math than reading, then you might have fun reading books that include math skills. Add some counting books to your child’s collection. Here are a few of our recommendations:

4. Add some humor or movement to your reading routine.
It’s okay to act silly or move around when reading a book, especially when the book requires it! Add a few books that will make you laugh or move. Here are some good ones:

5. Change it up!
You don’t always have to be the one to read. If your child has a favorite book, she probably knows it by heart. So let her “read” it to you! Or, pretend to forget what happens next and let your child fill in the missing events. You can also change your reading location to make it more interesting. For example, read by flashlight inside a play tent. Or, read outside on a blanket. You can even read to your child while he’s in the bathtub!

Need more help reading aloud? Check out our easy guide for reading to your child. We’re calling it Reading Aloud 101.

Reading Aloud 101: A guide for reading to your child

Reading aloud is not just reading words out loud. It’s much, much more. Reading aloud is equal parts reading and talking. It includes three phases: Before Reading, During Reading, and After Reading. Here’s what you can do during each of these phases.

Before Reading

  • Read the book yourself before reading it to your child.
  • Think of questions to ask your child as you’re reading.
  • Note any rhyming words that you can emphasize. If the book has characters, think of different voices you could use for them.
  • Introduce the book to your child by reading the title, author, and illustrator. Talk about the cover art. Ask your child what the book might be about.

During Reading

  • Sit close to your child and allow her to see and touch the book and pictures. Let her turn the pages. Invite her to join in making sounds or movements associated with the story.
  • Use your finger to touch each word or run your finger under the words to track the print. This helps your child begin to learn that letters and words convey meaning.
  • Change your voice to imitate characters and create suspense.
  • Make eye contact with your child and use facial expressions to show your own reactions to the book.
  • Point to the pictures and ask questions about them.
  • Ask her to predict what might happen next.
  • Talk about the book and how it relates to your child’s experiences.
  • Pause occasionally and ask questions, such as: Why do you think…? Have you ever…?

After Reading

  • Discuss the book with your child. Ask him questions about details or the progression of events, such as: What happened first? What happened after…?
  • Have your child share his favorite part of the book. Ask him to explain why it’s his favorite part.
  • Have your child draw a picture or do a project together that builds on what you read.


For more tips on reading aloud, check out this handy resource by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). You can also find literacy activities—along with little books just for your preschooler—in every box of the Dilly’s Tree House family engagement program. LEARN MORE.

Are you a parent who doesn’t enjoy reading? We know you’re out there! It’s okay…we aren’t here to judge. We’re here to help! Let us know if you found this post helpful by commenting below. If you have any ideas that you’d like to share with other parents, just add them too.

Susan Light
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Susan Light is a mom, a grandmother, a journalist, and an educational expert. She is a senior editor at Rainbow Educational Concepts, and she blogs regularly for Dilly’s Tree House. Susan focuses on research-based topics for parents of preschoolers and ways to help young children get ready for kindergarten.

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