Reading Without Words: 5 Tips to Engage Children With Books

Canva - Toddler Reading Book


Shared book reading with children is invaluable. Research suggests that shared reading at six months can improve language development and is predictive of future reading activities. These are 5 tips to help enhance reading time with your little ones. Here’s a hint…you don’t always have to read the words!


Talk About the Pictures

You can go through a whole children’s book and just talk about the pictures.

  • Use descriptive language, including nouns, action words and location words (on, in under, etc.).
  • You can ask questions about the pictures. For example, ‘Where is the boy? Who is holding the ice cream? What kind of ice cream is he eating?’
  • Make simple inferences about the pictures. For example, ‘I think the boy is sad! His ice cream fell.’

Make Noises!

Before children say their first words, they make what we call environmental noise, such as vroom vroom or moo. You can use those environmental noises when looking at a book. This provides exposure and the ability for young children to imitate after you. Be silly and be repetitive. So let’s say there is a bird on the page, point to the bird and say ‘tee, tee, tee.’  Or, if there is a cow on the page, point to it and say ‘moo, moo, moo.’ Encourage your little one to imitate after you.

Interact with the Pictures

This is PERFECT for action word growth as well as encouraging a child to physically engage in books and pictures, but what does it mean to interact with the pictures? It’s all about pretending that what is on the page is real. Pretend to pop bubbles that are in the bathtub. Are there flowers on the page? Pretend to smell them! Pictures of animals? Pretend to pet them. A delicious sandwich? Pretend to take a big bite. Talk about what you are doing and have your child give it a try!

Incorporate Music

Children learn from rhythm, beat, melody and repetition. Include these as you read. Let’s say you are looking at a book that is about a farm, start singing Old McDonald. Or maybe there is a night sky in the book, start singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. If you are daring, you can even make up your own song about the pictures in the book!

A-Choo!, Let’s Read

Is getting your child to sit down and look at a book a chore? Here are three little tips to help engage your child.

  1. Put the book on your head and say, ‘Oh look at my hat!’ Next, pretend that you have to start sneezing and then state, ‘Achoo!’ As you pretend to sneeze, let the book fall in your hands.
  2. Knock on the top of the book and state, ‘Knock! Knock! Who’s there?’ Take a peek with excitement, not letting your child see the inside of the book. This makes a child curious about what is inside the book.
  3. Have them take a turn knocking on the top of the book and state, ‘Knock! Knock! Who’s there?’ Then, let them look inside to see what’s there.