Reading aloud to children; It’s not new, but it is fast becoming evident, through research studies, that ‘reading with children from birth is … one of the most important activities families, communities and professionals can undertake to enhance their child’s future ability to read and write.’ ~CCCH (2013) Let’s Read Literature Review, p60

I had been teaching for ten years when Cammy was born, so I felt quite comfortable and confident reading aloud by then, but I remember feeling completely petrified as I read to a class of children for the very first time. I was reading Blueback by Tim Winton (thankfully the beautiful writing helped me along).

Remembering that feeling made wonder how some parents must feel when they are told they should be reading aloud to their children, but possibly:

  • don’t enjoy reading themselves?
  • don’t feel confident about reading aloud?
  • doubt their ability to make stories exciting?
  • fear they’ll make a fool of themselves by reading aloud?
  • have children who won’t sit still for a story?

When I was recently asked by the Australian Scholarships Group what tips I could share with these parents, I tried to take a fly-on-the-wall look at what we do in our home. My children both LOVE stories, and they both refuse to go to sleep without hearing at least one story first, regardless of how tired they are or how busy the day has been. So we must be getting a few things right. Below is a list of things we consciously try to do when reading aloud to our children.

Because not every parent or child is the same, I chatted to some mothers and educators who I find inspiring and asked them to share some tips based on their own experiences. You’ll see these peppered throughout the list.


My Little Bookcase shares 10 Tips for Reading Aloud to Children

1. Make time to read to your child EVERY day.

Just one book a day is all it takes (but it won’t be long before one of you is requesting more stories).

Reading is a part of our daily routine. We read before every bed or nap time, but I’ll also drop everything to read to my kids if they request a story throughout the day. It is important though, that reading doesn’t come across as a chore.

‘Read to a child with enjoyment in your voice (yes, even if you can recite the words by heart!)’,

Christie Burnett, Childhood 101

2. Relax and get comfortable.

Children really do pick up on our emotions and our fears, so they will know if you are nervous or uninterested.  Give yourself every opportunity to feel relaxed: choose the right place to read, choose a book you feel confident reading and read at the right time of the day so that you can give 100% of your attention to reading aloud to your child.

We have a number of cosy places within our home where we can snuggle and be close while we read together. You might set up a dedicated reading space, or you could simply read on the couch, in bed, or on a cushion-laden part of the floor.

Kids should feel relaxed too. Our children like to cuddle their bunnies while we read, and sometimes eat a little snack.  And when they were very young, they also liked to have their dummies too.

‘Enjoy the moment and model this to your children: use expression; laugh; create funny voices for each of the characters. Children will long remember a loved adult reading to them with enthusiasm, love, warmth and enjoyment.’

Megan Daley, Children’s Books Daily

‘When starting out, choose a time of day when both you and your child are feeling relaxed. This doesn’t always need to be at bedtime. We often like to read together in the mornings.’

Melissa Squire, Honeybee Books

Reading Aloud Tips for Parents_ Relax and get comfortable. Visit My Little Bookcase for more ideas.

3. Choose books that you feel confident reading.

They might be familiar books from your own childhood, simple books with very few words or books you’ve read a thousand times before.

Pick a good book! Even some of the best books are not easy to read aloud, so try out a few until you find one that flows well for you.’

Kate Fairlie, Picklebums

‘If you are nervous, familiarise yourself with the book and read it alone.’

Nathalie Brown, Easy Peasy Kids

4. Use puppets or props.

Puppets and props can take the focus away from you, helping you develop character voice and building your confidence in reading aloud without feeling self-conscious. My kids love to kiss, cuddle and give high-fives to our puppets.

‘My children find my over-the-top character voices hilarious.’

Elise Ellerman, Creative Play Central

5. Involve your child in the reading.

Make it an active (not a passive) activity for your child. I ask Baby Ike to turn the pages for us and repeat his favourite words. Cammy enjoys predicting parts of stories and she loves asking her own questions about the stories and illustrations.

‘Encourage kids to join in whenever there’s an opportunity: maybe they can make an animal noise, or be a giant stomping about. And don’t worry if you muddle your character voices. Sometimes I get my voices and characters muddled, but it doesn’t matter. Kids usually point it out, we giggle and move on.’

Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook

‘You don’t necessarily need to read the actual words. Instead you can describe the pictures, point out things with your finger and invite your child to help you.’

Danya, Danya Banya

‘I think it’s a great idea to point to the words when you are reading aloud. Children quickly pick up that the words you read link to the text.’

Penny Whitehouse, Wildlife Fun 4 Kids

6. Engage your child’s interest and imagination.

Choosing the right book for your child is one way to engage them, but your voice can also help bring a story to life.  Even without training, there are some simple ways you can use your voice when reading aloud. I like to use:

  • Volume- Try speaking softly to create suspense or seriousness, or speak loudly to create excitement or importance.
  • Pace- Try speaking slowly to create suspense or sadness, or speak quickly to create excitement or panic.
  • Tone- emphasise important words from the story (particularly words that indicate emotions)

‘Show emotion as you read–not only vocally, but with your face, your hands, your body language. Cover your mouth when shocked. Pause and press your hand to your chest when the story becomes suspenseful. Cover your eyes with embarrassment, bite your lips with dread, wipe away tears (real or faux!) upon tragedy. Tease the very essence of the story outwards for your child and they will become truly enraptured.’

Tania McCartney, Kids’ Book Review

‘I like to make different voices for the different characters in the story.’

Kate, The Craft Train.

7. Mix it up.

Find different ways to read a book. We like to read in the dark with a torch, wear costumes, sing the words, use silly voices, and read on the trampoline or under a tree.

‘We add sounds and movement as we read (My son’s eyes light up when I rumble and shake the book while reading his favourite about a magic roaring ship.)’

Nae, Adventures at Home with Mum

Visit My Little Bookcase for 10 Tips on Reading Aloud to Children

8. Take your child’s lead.

Give your child some control over story time. Let them decide when they want a story, what they want you to read, how they want it to be read, and how often they want you to read the same story. Also, be willing to ‘give up’ or change tact if a book is not working for your child. Don’t get tense if a story session hasn’t been a success.

There have been times when I have let Baby Ike turn the page before I’ve finished reading the words.  Other times, I have let him get up to play and go back to the story when he returns to me.

‘Don’t be disheartened when your toddler asks for the same book time and time again, make a deal that allows you both to choose a book each (their choice first and yours next).’

Nicole Brownlee, Story Box Library

‘Don’t underestimate the power of familiar books. Read the same books regularly and allow your child to become familiar with the rhythm, the words and how they relate to the pictures. ‘

Bek, Just for Daisy

9. Learn from others.

Watch and listen to other storytellers. Ask other family members to read to your child, visit your local library for story time, watch a segment of Play School or watch online storytellers through resources such as Story Box Library.

10. Persist.

Don’t give up on reading aloud because your child shows signs of not enjoying story time. Start small by using one book with a simple story, and go from there. Try different strategies and techniques until you work out what your child enjoys.

‘Don’t stop reading aloud to kids just because you feel they can read independently; continue to model good reading skills.’

Kate Lloyd, Laughing Kids Learn

How do you read aloud in your home?

This post was sponsored by the Australian Scholarships Group, who have more tips for reading aloud.

ASG Logo

Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) is a not-for-profit organisation and specialist education benefits provider.  ASG has supported over 509,000 children and their families to offset the cost of education.  But now ASG is moving towards offering more than just education funds. They’re creating an ever-expanding suite of resources, online tools and guides – like the ‘Motivating children to learn’ e-guide - to support parents and nurture children in their educational journey so they can reach their full potential. to discover member benefits or call 1800 648 945.

More articles regarding education issues, development, family members and parenting available on

ASG is also offering a week-long, luxury family excursion valued at over $9,000. It’s FREE to enter. Click here to find out how you can enter for your chance to win!

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About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase



  1. So many great ideas and tips!
    I read to my twins when they were in NICU… I felt kinda silly doing it until one day a nurse whispered in my ear that she thought all of the babies in the unit were calmer when someone was reading or singing!

  2. What a great list of suggestions Jackie I always feel a great connection with my kids when we read together, it’s such and important part of our day.

    • It’s true about connection. I love to sit back and watch my children choose different books to read with me and with their dad. Different connections are taking place. It is so beautiful.

  3. Kate said: On May 28, 2014

    Such an important post for everyone to read and with so many great tips. Thanks Jackie. We absolutely treasure our story time and we love to take turns to read aloud. :)

  4. Penny said: On May 29, 2014

    So many wonderful and important tips Jackie. You’ve covered it all. Thankfully my children love books. I think I’ve missed only 5 days of reading a book each night. It’s a must at our house!

    • I think they love books because you have nurtured that Penny. No accidents! Do you feel a little lost when you miss a night?

  5. Lovely—nicely done! Love the idea of props.

  6. Read to your kids because it is a lot of fun and a great opportunity to enjoy snuggles together. I loved doing it with my kids and now my grandkids. It’s great to see them enjoying the same books. Dr Seuss were great favorites with all their silly words and rhymes. If you can stop after only one book, it will be a miracle!

    • Kids just love SILLY, don’t they Jeanette :)

      I agree about stopping at just one book. My kids would think me cruel if I limited it to one. But it’s a start for some families :)

  7. THanks for such an informative post!! Packed with great ideas and so much encouragement for families to value reading aloud! :)

  8. Nicole said: On May 29, 2014

    I read to my children from the day they were born. A couple of years ago, after starting my business, the task of reading aloud fell to their father, who was not very confident initially! But now, he NEVER misses a night and has the best fun with the kids. They think he’s great, and the Scottish accent makes it a pleasure to listen to! Great post Jackie.

  9. Angela said: On June 6, 2014

    I remember reading somewhere that it’s never too early to start reading out to your baby. And so I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember; I remember making them (both my son and daughter) sit on my lap turn by turn and then settling down for half an hour or so with a book which had these colorful pictures in them and reading out stories line by line. And then they got so used to it that they themselves used to crawl over to the shelf, take out their favorite book and come and plonk it in my lap! :)

    Now they’re too old to be sitting in my lap (though they aren’t in their teens yet, but getting there) and have a separate reading time of their own, usually before bedtime. And on holidays they play these reading games they found online – – their teacher suggested it to them and hence I let them be online for say a quarter of an hour morning and evening since I know they are learning, and they really seem to enjoy it. This is also the Enid Blyton age for them; they’re totally into the Mystery series and watching them sitting quietly in a corner curled up with a book gives me so much satisfaction!

    Thanks for a great write-up, reminded me of my babies’ childhood days..

  10. What awesome tips, Jackie. Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. Thanks for putting all these tips in one post. It is brilliant.

  12. I love reading aloud and always have from when my children were babies. Some great tips here Jackie and they will surely encourage more readers!! i always love seeing the beautiful pics you share of you reading with your children x

  13. I’m reading a really interesting book at the moment called the Read Aloud Handbook. Have you seen that one? It has really enlightened me on the importance of reading aloud to children.

    These are really great tips Jackie :)

  14. Sarzy said: On June 23, 2014

    I love the idea of puppets or props! It is really going to help getting them engaged, and giggling too :) Thanks for the ideas!

  15. Thanks for the useful tips on reading to kids. Sooo helpful to have tried and tested advice. Thanks for sharing at the Love to Learn Linky!

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