Introducing babies to books during their first weeks and months of life is something all experts agree on. But have you ever pulled a book off the shelf for storytime with your toddler only to see her run off in the other direction?
Trust us, you’re not alone. This type of experience leaves many parents wondering how they can get their baby or toddler to like books.
The truth is, instilling a love for reading and books varies from baby to baby. And I speak from experience, having seen an interest in books vary among my own kids.
While there’s not a foolproof solution, we do have some suggestions for you. But most importantly, be patient with yourself and your baby. It might take a little while to happen, but we’re confident that if you’re consistent with your efforts, you’ll one day have the thrill of seeing your toddler come running when he sees you reach for a book. So don’t give up, keep reading, and they will like books eventually.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your baby like books is to demonstrate that you like books yourself. I love the moments when I can kick back with a book and feel like I’m being a good parent. (Not that such moments are easy to come by with a toddler!) But as Pamela Paul of The New York Times writes, “Integrate books into your daily routine so that it’s not just something the kids do, but a grown-up pursuit as well, and a cherished part of your family.”
My baby boy seemed to come into this world with a love for books. When he was only one year, he would grab a chapter book off the shelf and sit and flip every page in the book so carefully you’d think he was seven—our local librarian called him Sunny Baudelaire. He loved books from the beginning, and I think this came from seeing lots of reading taking place around our home: two older siblings that he saw reading books plus his parents reading, too.
There’s this quote I like from author Jules Verne: “We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read.” It’s a bit wordy and maybe a touch dramatic, but I think I know what he meant: the point of having kids’ books is to let kids use them. I love to decorate with books, but when it comes to our home collection of kids’ books, I want them to be used up and worn out.
That’s why we highly recommend board books for babies and toddlers who start to show interest in holding books themselves. The thick pages are perfect for developing motor skills and are durable enough to double as a chew toy.
We also love to have books placed all around the house, and we make sure they’re where our kids can reach them.
According to a study conducted in 2003, “Creating a steady stream of new, age-appropriate books has been shown to nearly triple interest in reading within months.” There are lots of great ways to maintain a steady supply of books. Our book clubs make getting new books super convenient for parents and exciting for kids. Trips to the library or bookstore, even if it’s curbside pickup, are other good options. A lending library with friends and neighbors can also keep a constant supply of books coming through your door.
While my baby boy loved books immediately, my baby girl did not! She seemed to come into this world with no care at all for books. She’d toss them aside, ignore them, or even crawl over them anytime we put books in front of her. If we tried to sit her on our lap to read with us, she’d squeal and squirm until we let her down. So we started to take advantage of moments when we had a captive audience. For example, when we put her in her high chair at meal time, we’d take the opportunity to read her a book as well. We also read to her in her crib when we’ve put her down for bed. She doesn’t feel restrained or forced to read, and we don’t have to chase her all over the house!
This is another trick we learned with our daughter. She always wants to take the book out of our hands, so we started bringing an extra book she can hold while we read her some others. Then we switch. Don’t kids always have what you want, anyway;)? Eventually she started to grab her own book off the shelf while we read one out loud. I think she is entering the phase of getting to know books—and maybe even liking them.
Most of all, enjoy the stories you're reading and memories you’re creating. As I’ve seen with my own kids—even though we’ve done things to promote a love for books, for my son it happened almost immediately and for my daughter it has taken more time. So try not to worry too much, and instead, be consistent and enjoy any chance you get to read with your child—it’s a special opportunity to build bonds and habits that will last a lifetime.