There’s no right or wrong way to share a story – the most important thing is to have fun together. Here are some tips to get you started, but see what works best for you and your family.
Sharing books with babies
- It’s never too early to start! Your baby has been listening to your voice since before they were born and will find it soothing. Cuddle up and enjoy the time together, knowing they are feeling safe and secure, as well as developing their language and listening skills.
- Make it part of your routine Books and stories can fit easily into your daily routine. Why not greet your baby in the morning with a story about what you will do that day; try saying a rhyme during changing time, or taking a few minutes cuddled up on the sofa looking at a book. A bedtime story is a lovely, calm way to spend a few minutes cuddled up together at the end of the day.
- Chat to your baby about the story Point things out and really give your baby a good chance to look at them. Describe the pictures. Talk about what happens in the books and how the characters are feeling. For simple books with one word and one object such as a ball, add your own words to describe it – ‘the ball is red and white, and round and can bounce!’
- Have books around Leave books on the floor in baskets or boxes and in places where your baby plays. Having books around will help make reading a part of your baby’s world. Your baby will enjoy looking at their favourite books and even bringing them to you to read!
- Involve the whole family Anyone in the family can read with your baby – grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends. Suggest that everyone gives it a go! Reading is a great way for siblings to help care for the new baby. Ask big brothers and sisters to tell your baby stories and to share their favourite books.
- Books on the go! Books can be shared anytime, anywhere, so keep one handy in your bag. It’s a great way to pass the time waiting for buses or in queues. It can also help to calm and settle your baby.
- The three Rs: Rhythm, Rhyme and Repetition Babies love books with rhythm, rhyme and repetition. Books, songs, poems and rhymes with a steady beat engage babies and help to develop their language skills. Babies love repetition - especially since it helps them learn - so don’t be afraid to read the same book over and over again!
Sharing books with toddlers and preschoolers
- Let children help choose the book At the library, your child will enjoy looking for new books and choosing their own. You could also suggest different books and tell them why you think they might like them.
- Books on the move! Children are a busy bunch, so it may be hard for them to sit still for a whole story. Don’t worry if they’re moving about – chances are they’re still listening. A book with a phrase that repeats, or actions that they can do gives them an opportunity to actively join in with the story.
- Ask questions Reading gives you a chance to spend time together and get to know how your child views the world. Ask children what they liked (or didn’t like) about the book, or how the book made them feel. It will help develop their language skills as they tell you what they think.
- Timing Reading should be fun for both the grown up and little one! Try active books with voices and actions during play times and softer, quieter stories before bed. If story time isn’t going well and is causing stress, then try a different book or read later.
- Play with words If you’re sharing a song, rhyme or book that you both know well, try saying some wrong words and letting your child catch you. You can also ‘forget’ the words and see if your child can help you out. Make it up, mix it up and show children the joys of books by playing with words. The sillier the better!
- Pick a non-fiction book If you have a wee one who loves trains, a book full of detailed engines rather than a story could be perfect! Dip in and out or choose a page and give your child the chance to explore it in great detail. Point things out and talk about how it works. Let your child tell you about it and show you what they know. It’s also a great way to deepen their understanding of the world as they match what they have seen in the book to their own experiences.
- Use the books from your Bookbug Bags Children love repetition so don't worry about reading these books over and over again. It's great to return to favourite stories and children love knowing what's going to happen next. You could ask them to tell you what's coming or to add in their own noises or sounds to go along with the story.
If you would like some ideas for more books to choose, try our book lists for children. Grouped by age and theme, there is something for everyone. Or you could ask at your local library - staff will be very happy to help.