Do I Always Have to Read to my Child?

Do I Always Have to Read to my Child?

We all hear about how important it is to read to our kids.  But as parents, we face a lot of different demands on our time. And some parents have their own difficulties with reading. Or they speak a different language than most of their children’s books are in.  So, what can you do when it is challenging to read to your child but you still want to make sure that they get all of the benefits of reading?

First, let’s think about two really important things that reading with an adult does for kids.

  • It exposes them to language. Just hearing words, any words, is super important for children as they develop their reading skills. And it doesn’t matter what language those words are in.
  • It creates shared time for you and your children. You have time to talk about whatever you are seeing in pictures, reading on the page, or hearing. This is important as your children grow older because it gets them used to having a special time set aside for reading and it gets them used to talking with you about what they think and feel, two super important habits.

So, the some of the most important things about reading to your child is that you are sharing time, attention, and language. If it is challenging to read a book to your child, here are some suggestions about ways that you can still share the benefits of reading:

  • Watch a book with your child. There are some wonderful videos on YouTube of books for kids. One of our favorites is Storyline Online. Actors read children’s books as kids watch the pictures. If you want to see the words as they are being read, check out Brightly Storytime. Scholastic also has read-aloud videos in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.
  • Listen to a book with your child. Audiobooks are a great way to share book reading with your child. On the web, Storynory, offers lots of free kids’ stories. For slightly older kids, Lit2Go, also has lots of free books. You can also check out audiobooks (with a copy of the book) from your library.
  • Tune in to Facebook. Check out the Facebook page Zaria X Hailey for two sisters who read a kids’ book online every night.

AND, whatever you do…..

  • Share the book with your child. Whether you are watching or listening to the book, do it together. Maybe not all the time because having your child listen to a book while you are running errands is also good for them (and may cut down on your stress) but aim for once a day. Or, if that is not possible, 5 times a week.  The important thing here is to share the book:
    • Talk about what you liked about the story.
    • Ask your child what she thought about it.
    • Point out your favorite picture.
    • Make up a new ending.
    • Point out how the story is like something your family did together.

As long as you are talking with your child, and sharing the time, the sky is the limit. And it doesn’t matter what language you are speaking in, even if the book is in another language.

When you share language, words, and thoughts with your child and show how important reading is by sharing books with them, you are bringing them the benefits of reading and helping them to develop a lifelong reading habit.

Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2019

Image: © Oksun70 |

Katherine Pears
Dr. Katherine Pears is a senior scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). She earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology and has worked with OSLC since 1998. Katherine is the principal investigator and co-developer of the Kids In Transition to Schools (KITS) program. Currently, she oversees all the clinical and research activities for KITS. When she’s not in her office, you’ll find Katherine in the kitchen whipping up her latest creation or outdoors hiking a scenic trail.


Leave a reply