Reading with Movers and Shakers (How-To Guide)

dad daughter readThe classic visual of reading with a child is to picture them sitting on your lap or snuggled close, quietly sharing a book. 

For some of us, that isn’t usually our reality. We’re parents who read with busy, active kids.

When my daughter was born, I was intent on sharing my love of reading with her. I was focused on what I thought was “normal,” so when she jumped off my lap and started moving around, I thought I had failed.

Bedtime stories are supposed to be soothing, but she isn’t settling down. She wants to play with her stuffed toys. She isn’t listening. What am I doing wrong?

As it turns out, nothing. At the time I didn’t feel very successful, but looking back, I see that I had more impact than I thought. Here are my lessons learned.

5 Tips for Reading with Movers and Shakers

Keep reading. Is midday the best time to share a book? Then go for it. The key is that you reading a book is part of a daily routine. 

Hint: Ask your child what book they want to hear. That can help you identify which books you’ve read that they paid attention to.

Let her move. IThis was hard! It may not *seem* like your child is listening, but she is. If her moving around distracts you, change where/how you sit. Just don’t give up. 

Hint: Find stories that match their interests and they are sure to stop what they’re doing to come to look at the pictures. 

boy reading toysKeep books within reach. When you read a book – especially one that looks like they enjoyed – put it on a shelf or in a basket where your child can reach it. 

Hint: The books you read the most are likely to be the ones they “read” on their own. It’s a WIN! when you see them looking at a book on their own.

toddler preschoolAdd a few toys to the book basket. Sensory toys like squishy balls, plush creatures, blocks, small objects, or soft brushes keep little hands busy and ears listening. 

Hint: If possible, select toys that match some of the book characters. With their busy imagination, listeners are sure to see that character as coming to life. 

[Note: This picture is from vacation. We filled an infant tub with toys and toddler-friendly books.]

Set rules that work for you. Last but not least, use this time to teach your child about respect and boundaries. Maybe your rules for reading time include …

  • moving around is fine, but no leaving the area.
  • play on the floor or your bed; no climbing on the furniture.
  • interrupting is not allowed.
  • only play with toys in the book basket.
  • ask questions any time.

These are just ideas. You know what will work best for your family.

The joy of reading comes from the experience of sharing a story together.

Trying to (re)create a “classic” scenario with a child who likes having something in his hands or who has difficulty sitting still can have the same effect as not reading at all.

Next Week: Books with “Moving” Stories