Reading opens up a whole new world for your little one. It also fosters connection, language and speech, comprehension, and so many other cognitive and emotional benefits. Establishing regular reading routines is one of the most beneficial things you can do with your kids, no matter their age. These 15 tricks will help you make the most out of this precious time.

Hone your acting skills.

If you are reading a book with characters, don’t forget to note the emotional expressions and feelings of the characters. Teaching the concepts of “happy and sad” or even concrete feelings, such as “sleepy” or “hungry,” can be a stepping stone to teaching your child to be empathetic of others’ feelings.

Would you, could you, in a book nook?

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Designate a comfy “reading spot” at home. A reading nook offers an easy, and enticing reminder to read in the morning and before bed. Plus, when you curl up in the book nook, your tot will know it’s reading (and snuggling) time!

Decisions, decisions.

Let your child choose what books to read. When able to take the driver’s seat, your babe will show more interest in books. Plus, feeling in control may give your child the confidence needed to “read” independently. There’s nothing cuter than a gleeful babe flipping through the pages of a favorite board book.

It’s elementary, dear Mama.

Reading isn’t just about learning letters and words. Take this opportunity to practice colors, numbers, shapes, animals, and other fundamentals, like “big and small”. This strategy is a fun way to sneak in a few minutes of traditional learning each day without your tot putting up a fuss.

It’s not always rude to point.

As you read to your babe, point to pictures and discuss the story in your own words. Drawing your little one’s attention to features on each page will prolong their interests and broaden their understanding.

We’ve all heard about the importance of reading to our tots for that magical 20 minutes a day. But how can we be sure that time is filled with love, laughter, and learning?

One step forward and three pages back.

If your tot wants to go back a few pages, go back with them (in spirit, too)! You may find yourself re-reading the same page ten times, but if your child is intrigued, savor the moment! Even if your interest is waning, try not to rush your child (unless they are old enough to stall out on bedtime… *wink*). Just have a glance at the giddy expression on your little gem’s face and your excitement will be renewed, anyway!

Complicate things…just a little bit.

If your child is speaking (or trying to), make it a habit to repeat your tot’s utterances and validate them every chance you get! As you repeat their words,elaborate and expand on their simple phrases. “That’s right, it’s a choo choo! It’s a little blue choo choo train!

Go beyond the written word.

Describe the pictures in as much detail as your babe will allow. If your child is smitten with a particular page, spend a few extra moments describing its details. If your tot starts to get antsy, re-direct your excitement to the next page.

Now I know my ABCs.

When reading aloud to your child, follow the printed words with your finger to introduce the concept that written words correspond to spoken ones. Research shows that phonological awareness of words and sounds is essential for learning to read.

To every babe: Turn, turn, turn.

Let your child be in control of turning pages. If your child is too young to turn the pages independently, scaffold their efforts until they become proficient—it won’t take long! This important job will help your little one feel invested in reading and will let you know how much time to spend on each page.

Step out of the comfort zone.

There are some concepts that your child can grasp, but only with a little help from you, Mama! This challenging sweet-spot is where you should spend most of your time when reading to your youngster. You will spend tons of time reading the same stories over and over (especially if your child chooses the books)! As you two progress with an old favorite, your tot will become increasingly knowledgeable about the book. Gradually move forward with more complex concepts and words inspired by the book. This will help your child absorb more insight from the same old stories!

Riddle me this.

Ask your child open-ended questions to initiate interaction during reading time. If your child is pre-verbal, pause after each question and then provide an answer. If your child has a developing vocabulary, ask your child to point to or label pictures, or ask questions about the story’s meaning.

Make new connections.

Hey Mama, you know your child better than anyone else in the world! Take advantage of this knowledge by helping your child make connections between stories and their own personal experiences. Even the youngest infants have experiences from the day they are born. Using previous experiences to make connections promotes understanding at any age.

Don’t force it.

Just remember…the most important part of reading with your child is to make sure your child enjoys it. Ultimately, the goal is to foster an intrinsic love of reading that will last a lifetime. If your babe isn’t in the mood to read, wait a while and try again. If you are going through a phase where your little one never seems interested in reading, you aren’t alone! These phases usually don’t last long. Be persistent and your child will be back on the reading express in no time!