5 Ways to Keep Children Engaged at Storytime

Dad reading to his son
Category: Bookbug

Reading and sharing books is a great way to spend time together, build relationships and help support children’s learning. But sometimes, even the most avid picture book reader might not be willing to sit still and listen. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on the story – but maybe you need to think about doing something a bit differently to engage your child.

Here are a few ways to mix up your book-sharing and keep it exciting for children (and adults!).


Tell it in your own words

If reading the book is proving tricky, or you’re losing the child’s attention, try telling the story in your own words. You can use the pictures as a guide, but make variations on the plot using the child’s ideas and suggestions. The book can be a different story every time. You could also try personalising the story by changing character names to those of your child, other family members or friends. It’s a great way to help children see themselves in the story and identify with it.


I-Spy games

On days when book sharing is going pear-shaped, we like to use our books to play I-Spy. We use the illustrations for our inspiration and turn it into an I-Spy game with either letter sounds or colour names. “I spy, with my little eye… Something that is purple!”


Bring your voice

Your voice is the most important tool you have when reading a book. How you use your voice will add excitement to the book sharing experience, but it also helps children learn new words and grasp their meaning. So when you’re reading, think about how you can emphasise unusual words to make them stand out, or how you can add funny or silly voices to make the story more exciting.


Mix it up

This activity is a firm favourite in our house. Sometimes, we start reading our book from the end. Or sometimes we start in the middle. We do this with stories we know and love. We talk about what happened to get to that point of the story – then we go back to the beginning and read the book.


Point and name

Books have lots of words that children aren’t likely to hear in everyday conversation, so taking a minute to explain new words, point to the corresponding picture and tell the child what it is will help them to learn new words and develop their vocabulary.

There’s no right or wrong way to share a story. The most important thing is to have fun together. Whether you’re reading word for word, looking at the pictures and chatting, or using the book as a game, you’re helping your child develop an understanding of stories and develop a lifelong love of books and reading.


For more ideas and inspiration on book-sharing, you can watch videos of families sharing books from their Bookbug bags on our website.