How Parents and Kids Can Get the Most Out of Story Time

September 01, 2017 7:00 AM

Reading to your children early and often is more important than how or what you read. A pediatrician offers tips for reading with maximum impact.


Children often start receiving books before they’re even born. A good thing, as experts advocate parents start reading to children as early as infancy.

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The mountain of evidence supporting why reading is good for your child is unequivocal, ranging from vocabulary development to socialization.

But how does a parent get the most out of story time?

“Read early, and read often,” says Heather Burrows, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, because the best way to get results is to keep the habit consistent.

Putting yourself 100 percent in the reading experience also helps encourage the behavior, Burrows says.

“Put your phone away, turn the TV off, and just cuddle up with a book together,” says Burrows. “You want to try to minimize distractions and just focus on your child and the book.”

"You can’t go wrong if you’re spending time with your child, and there is no wrong way to read a book."
Heather Burrows, M.D.

Burrows’ other tips include:

  • Make it a routine. Work story time into your bedtime ritual, for example, or make it right after lunch every day. “Some families even have a reading chair or a reading blanket,” notes Burrows.

  • Let kids pick out their own books. Your children are more likely to get excited about books if they helped choose them.

  • Read with sounds. Kids love hearing the tiger roar and the rain “plop plop” in a favorite story.

  • Go off script. Talk about pictures, point out things characters seem to be doing, and ask what your child thinks about the story. “Talking about the book helps the story come to life and stimulates your child’s imagination,” Burrows says.

  • Read and reread. Children learn by hearing stories repetitively, so it’s OK to indulge requests for a certain special book every night.

The most important tip of all, Burrows says, is don’t overthink it.

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“You can’t go wrong if you’re spending time with your child, and there is no wrong way to read a book,” she says.

“Not everyone feels comfortable reading at first, and that’s OK. Your child doesn’t care. Focus on enjoying the time with your child, and he’ll cherish story time for years to come.”

Visit for more reading tips and additional information on how reading helps children develop.