I love books. One of my favorite parts of my job as a pediatrician is giving out books. And reading with my kids is one of my favorite parts of being a parent. I won’t say books can fix everything, but I rarely find a part of parenting that isn’t improved by books.

Sleep trouble? Reading can be part of a bedtime routine. Behavior issues? A few minutes snuggled up reading is positive one-on-one time. Potty training? Ask my kids about “poop stories.” Boredom? Check. Unsure how to bring up a tough topic? Yup. Jitters over starting something new? Struggling with feeling different? Dealing with a loss? There’s a book for that. And of course, there are other benefits of reading. Books can reflect children’s own experiences and give them insight into the experiences of others. Reading can help improve language skills, vocabulary and school performance. It can teach kids how to cook, draw and create online virtual worlds. Reading has the potential to bring kids comfort, joy and adventure.

Of course, there are many other times parents joyfully connect with their children, whether through cooking, worshipping, shooting hoops or singing. There are infinite ways families enrich their children’s lives with their own meaningful traditions. If you would like reading to be one of those but are not sure when or where to start, any time is the right time.


It is never too early to start reading together (just like it’s never too late!) Newborns recognize and are soothed by their mother’s voice even before they are born. And while infants don’t understand the story, early reading can help their language development. Plus, as a parent, I found it broke up the boredom that can come from spending all day with a newborn.

Babies tend to like simple books about other babies and animals. Once babies are 6-12 months old, they start to grab at, chew and throw books. That’s great! It’s normal baby curiosity and experimentation (and teething). At this age, it can be tough to get through a whole book or even a whole page. That’s okay. “Reading” to your baby may mean pointing at a picture of a cow and making moo sounds. Or saying “where’s the baby?” as you close and open the book to the same baby picture. Or even asking “Is this my hat?” as you balance a book on your head. All of this counts! You’re reading together!


Reading to toddlers is where things start to get fun, until the hundredth time reading the same book. While toddlers may still like babies and animals, they also enjoy books that have rhymes and repetition. Toddlers are pretty tough, so stick with board books if you can. Kids this age may have a favorite book that they want read again and again. They may also be able to finish the last word of their favorite sentences or rhymes. So pause every once in awhile to give them a chance, or throw in a wrong word and see if they notice. (Note: to break up the monotony, “Is this my hat?”- still a hit.)

Some toddlers are always moving, so it can be hard to find calm time for reading. But parents usually know those few minutes in the day when their children are finally still, maybe around nap-time, during a snack or after their bath. Or throw a book in your bag to read waiting for an appointment or in line. Remember, reading together is supposed to be fun; if it’s stressful, put the book down and try again later.

School age

Just like it’s never too early to start reading to your child, it is never too late to read aloud. Once kids learn how to read, you can both gain a lot from reading out loud together. When kids hit school-age, reading can be relaxing way to re-connect and maybe sneak in some snuggles. It also helps kids develop interest in books when they are sharing them with someone they love. At the same time, “Is this my hat” stops working and you may have to try a little harder to make reading fun.

As I’ve said before, reading should be enjoyable for both of you. That means finding some time to read that doesn’t put pressure on your child to read to you. If your child is a reluctant reader or struggling to read, there will be other times to work on those skills. In fact, it is important for children who are reading behind grade level to read books that are just a small stretch for them to read independently and to BE READ books at their grade level. This allows them to work on their own reading at a steady pace while gaining the vocabulary, comprehension and joy in reading that come from hearing grade level stories.

At this age, kids’ interests will drive what books you read. Kids love having some control and independence so going to the library and letting them choose the book can be a big hit. Do they like unicorns? sports? video games? a super-hero movie? Chances are, there’s a book about it. And don’t limit yourselves to books. Maybe they’d like a graphic novel, magazine, book of jokes? Go for it. This time doesn’t have to feel educational to be worthwhile. The point is to enjoy reading and each other (with a focus on the latter).

Tweens and teens

Reading together with older kids can sometimes feel like a hard sell. But secretly, most adolescents still want their parents’ attention. So while they may not admit it, behind those eye rolls is appreciation that you are interested.

This age group takes a bit of creativity. Some kids will still be interested in reading aloud together. Some kids like being the one who reads, so try taking turns. Kids may want to choose the book themselves and can get a kick out of having their parents read potty humor or horror stories. But if you find a book you think your kid will love, try it out; they might be impressed.

Sometimes reading together means reading the same book separately. If there’s a genre, series or subject that your child is interested in, grab 2 copies of the same book. Or buy an extra copy of a book they’re already reading. You can each read separately and discuss, e.g. “Did you get to the part where ______?” “Who do you think is going to end up together?”

Maybe reading together at this age is saying “check out this magazine article I just read about [insert pop culture reference here].” Maybe it’s listening to an audiobook together in the car. All of this counts! You’re reading together!