Reading books to children from birth is a very important part of your child’s development.

Children learn about the world, about people, animals, feelings and experiences from the stories they hear. They also learn about reading, books, words, the alphabet and its sounds, sentences - a whole range of things that will prepare them for literacy learning when they go to school. Reading to your children can be a little scary, but with a little practice and some good books you'll find out how much fun it can be!

Click here to see our Deadly Books and get some great suggestions for books to borrow from your library!

For specific tips on reading to four and five year olds or babies, follow the links.

Use the tips below when reading a book with your child. You can watch this segment with Mary G too.

Things that you can do with a book when reading to your children

Talk about the book

Before you start reading to your child, share the book together. Talk about the front cover, the back cover, the pictures on it, the name of the author and illustrator. Ask your child questions like, ‘What do you think this story will be about?’ This will make them think about the name of the book, look at the pictures and predict what it will be about. Other questions to ask are, ‘Where is the name of the book? Where is the name of the person who wrote the book? How do we start reading this story? Where do you think this story is from?’

How to read a book

When you read the book, talk about reading it from front to back. Then talk about reading each page from the top to the bottom. Your child is watching everything you do and is learning from you about how to actually handle a book to read the story. As you read, point to the words and talk about reading from left to right across the page.

Talk about the pictures

As you read the story, stop every now and again to discuss the pictures in the book. Point out the characters in the story and have a chat about them. The pictures are there to help children better understand the story. Ask questions such as, ‘Who is that in the picture? Can you see the ball the bear was playing with? I wonder if this story is happening in the night time or day time?’

Sounds, words and sentences

Reading books to your children gives you the opportunity to begin teaching your children about letters, sounds, words and sentences. Some ways to do this are to point out the words you are reading and say, ‘I am reading the words written here.’ Point out a sentence and say, ‘I am going to read this whole sentence now.’
Talk about the sounds in the words, point out words that start with the first letter of your child’s name such as, ‘Oh, here is an ‘s’ in ‘snake’ the same as the first sound in your name, Sam.’Point out words that are the same, for example if the word ‘hiccup’ is used two or three times in the story, point each one out. ‘Here is the word ‘hiccup’. I can see it again, here it is, and here it is again.’

Enjoying the story

Discuss the story as you read. Ask your child what has happened so far in the story, what they think will happen next. Ask them if they are enjoying the story. Make them excited about finding out what happens next in the story by saying things like, ‘Oh this is a very exciting story. I wonder what will happen to Little Bear when his mummy gets home! Let’s read more and find out.’
Talk about the characters in the story. Ask questions such as, ‘Well, why do you think Johnny was a naughty boy?’ or ‘Did you think the bears in the story were very funny? What was funny about them?’
When you finish reading the story, talk about it. Ask your child to tell the story back to you. Or go through the book and allow your child to tell you the story based on the pictures. This is ‘pretend reading’ and is a very, very good way to help develop your child’s mind and intelligence.

  1. Discuss feelings about the story

When you have finished reading the story, ask your child what they thought about it. Ask what their favourite part was. Ask whether they’d like to hear it read again or would like to share it with a brother, sister, cousin or friend. There are lots of things you can now do with your child to get them thinking more about the story and what they learnt from it. Give your child some paper and pencils and ask them to draw their favourite bit or character from the story. Write what they say about the story underneath and then hang the picture at home. Act out the story together, or encourage your children to act it out together. Make a mask of one the main character in the story. Make the mask from a cereal box and coloured pencils. Give the mask to your child to play with and talk about the character. These are just some of the ways that you can use a book with your child. You will have lots more ideas yourself and your children will love you reading to them and discussing books. Remember to make reading together fun – this is your time to share and learn together.

Read to your small children every day and watch their learning take off!

Twitter Updates

I always knew reading to my kids was important, but this has opened my eyes to how important and how much.

I tell stories in Vietnamese and read to my children in English.  I only started reading English after receiving Better Beginnings. 

One mother reads with her four year old every afternoon after school now.  She said without these books, they would not have any to read. 
Teacher, Remote Community School

I always knew reading to my kids was important, but this has opened my eyes to how important and how much.

I think it’s been a wonderful initiative.  I feel sure it’s going to benefit both the children and parents and develop links with the library.


It’s wonderful to have support across the community emphasising the importance of reading and language development. 
Community Health Nurse

…I never thought of reading to my baby.  Better Beginnings has really boosted my confidence.

Better Beginnings gave me confidence. I know reading is an everyday tool and teaching my children will help them be more successful in life.