Tips for Shared Reading with Children Birth to Three

Tips for using reading time to bond with your child and build their language and literacy skills.

Reading to young children can help them build language and literacy skills—and reading together can be a wonderful way for you and your little one to bond! A caring adult can help unlock a book’s magic, creating opportunities for you to laugh, learn, imagine, and explore together. 

Here are some ways to make the most of your time reading together:   

Create a Reading Ritual 

Create a reading ritual to help your child feel safe and connected.  

  • Choose a consistent reading time—like every night before bed—so reading together brings comfort and connection.  
  • Choose a special reading spot. A reading spot can be as simple as a dedicated space for reading. But you can also make it special with favorite pillows or stuffed animals.   

Build Good Reading Habits 

Let your child see you read and interact with books the way good readers do.  

  • Show your child how to interact with books. Emphasize the way you turn each page, run your finger under the words as you read, and notice fun details in the pictures. 
  • Show how you make reading fun by reading with funny voices and using gestures to mimic or act out what characters are doing.  
  • When you read familiar books, invite your child to say the words that they know along with you.  
  • Choose books that can help your child build the reading skills they’ll need later. Rhyming books help children hear the sounds in words. Books with vibrant, detailed pictures help them learn to pause and notice what’s in a book. 

Let Them Lead the Way 

Honor your child’s unique reading preferences and interests.    

  • When it’s reading time, provide lots of book options and let your child grab for an old favorite or one that catches their eye.  
  • Give your child time to explore the pictures on each page and notice the details that interest them. Name and describe those details—and don’t forget to share in their excitement. 
  • Point out how parts of the book are like what they’ve seen and experienced. Are there characters that remind you of people you know? Or have they ever been in the same situation or felt the same feelings as the characters? Talk to your child about these important connections! 

Remember that what’s most important is that you and your child can come together and bond over a good book. There’s no wrong way to read with your child! Reading together creates a foundation for your child to become a lifelong reader—and an opportunity for you to strengthen your connection. 

Mia Hood, Literacy Specialist and Lecturer, Queens College