How (Not) to Read With a Toddler

reading-1156865_1920Today we will be discussing reading with your toddlers. An activity vitally important to their development, and precious time spent with your darling children. We all look forward to the time when our babies will start to enjoy books, right? Spending quiet, peaceful time together, sharing the books we loved as children, and fostering a lifelong love of reading in our offspring. Everyone agree? Right, let’s talk about the realities then, shall we.

First off, it should be noted that toddlers do enjoy books. They have a very special way of enjoying books. Here is a guide to participating in that enjoyment. This is how to read a bedtime story (or fifty) with a toddler. Please note that, unlike many of my toddler how to guides, this is not how to read a bedtime story with two toddlers. NEVER do that.

1. Behold the presented pile of fifty ‘favourite’ books, all of which have been read at least thirty thousand times. Since this morning. Remember nostalgically when you used to actually like some of these books. Ah, those innocent days when you had to open the book to know what the words were. You know, before they were burned into your memory and your retinas. Before they haunted your dreams.

2. Wonder briefly if the toddler could be persuaded to let you read something different for a change. Brideshead Revisited, perhaps? Catch 22? War and Peace? Consider having to read War and Peace thirty thousand times a morning to meet the demands of a Tolstoy crazed toddler. Scrap that idea.

3. Pick up a book. ‘No, not that one!’ The books must be read in a specific order. You cannot know what that order is (clue: it is not the order they are piled in). You will most definitely know which order is not correct. By the screams. You will still not be permitted to know the correct order. You will have to guess by picking up books at random and assessing the volume of the accompanying screaming and crying. This will go on for some time.

4. Finally start reading a book (it will be the last book you picked up). Note that reading, contrary to popular belief, is not a quiet and sedate activity. This is Extreme Reading. The toddler will be engaging in bedroom parkour throughout bedtime story time. Discover a small hand blocking your view of the words. Then a small head. On a particularly bad day, a small bum. Yes, you don’t actually need to see the words to read this book anymore. They are, after all, burned on your retinas. Nonetheless, this is quite irritating.

5. Continue reading the book. Do so at increasing volume, as the toddler picks up a different book and starts ‘reading’ that, shouting over you. Put down the book. ‘No! Mummy, read the book! I was listening to that!’ Have a discussion with a once again screaming toddler about how there is no point reading a book to someone who is reading their own book over you.

6. Return to reading, now with the toddler’s full attention. Discover the downsides to having a toddler’s full attention, as said toddler interrupts every other word to point at something in the picture and ask, ‘What’s that?’ Suspend all questions until the end of the book. Suspend all questions that consist of ‘what’s that’ until the end of the millennium.

7. Try to claw back some time (there are still forty-nine books to go) by skipping some non-essential bits/every other page. Find that the toddler is still paying attention: ‘You missed a bit! Go back!’ The book is also burned into the toddler’s memory. The toddler can recite it word for word. This being the case, wonder why you are being forced to read the sodding thing yet again.

8. The toddler will insist on turning the pages. This would be okay if the toddler turned the pages when you had finished reading them. Or if the toddler turned the pages in the right direction: ‘Hang on, just go back. I just want to look at…What’s that?’ Progress, which previously was merely excruciatingly slow, has now stalled altogether. In fact, you are going backwards.

9. When the end of the book is upon you at last (at least, you think it is – there is a head, a hand and a foot obscuring your view), answer questions about what happened in the book. So many questions that answering them amounts to telling the entire story again.

10. Repeat process with the other forty-nine books. Upon finally reaching the end of the pile, the toddler will bolt out of bed: ‘I just want to read one more book! I’ll just get it. Just one more book!’ The toddler will return with ten books. Realise that working on the toddler’s counting might be more useful than working on reading.


  1. So funny. I like the bit about “Extreme Reading”. We don’t have these problems yet. For now all I have to deal with is Peachy’s attempts at turning the pages and her getting frustrated that she can’t pick up the pictures. #bestandworst

  2. Oh yes, this brings back so much memories reading with T when she was a toddler. The turning of the pages, ugh. And the “Again mummy again!” Just as you’ve finished reading the book for the nth time. Oh they joy! 😉

  3. I actually have the opposite, Archie’s really not into books at all. With his Autism I really struggle to hold his attention on a book but we’re working on it. He has taken a bit of a liking to room on a broom so I’m reading that over & over to try & engage him 🙂

  4. Elsie Pop says:

    Haha this sounds like a very rewarding process! I don’t have kids yet but this is hilarious, and rings a bell from looking after other people’s kids – I think all toddlers read in the same way!

  5. Yvonne says:

    Ha ha, read something different for a change. That never happens in our house either 🙂 My two never wait until i have finished reading the pages before turning, I am not sure they realise I am actually reading the words. Brilliant post 🙂

  6. Eric says:

    In the beginning reading with our toddler was organized chaos. I’d read and they’d bounce around. Not thinking they were listening I would stop. They’d stop too and watch me until I started again. They could also tell me what happened even though they weren’t sitting in my lap. Yet they both now love reading!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Hahaha, so very true! I know so very many of my children’s books off by heart now. The sun was not shining… it was too wet to play… so we sat in the house on this wet, wet, wet day….

  8. love it! I’ve been through all those ones and when I’m totally shattered I pick a book that I know off by heart and just read it with my eyes closed. I particularly loathe the Mr Men books, so tiny yet sooooo long.

  9. Fizzyjazzle says:

    My toddler has decided he likes to read himself books, mixed in with toddler chat all the stories sound like little red riding hood or 3 little pigs! I am not allowed to touch the book and I must sit still! Naughty mummy shuts her eyes for 10 minutes without being noticed sometimes! #fridayfrolics

  10. Pen says:

    Hahaaa, love it. Cygnet will only listen to Funny Bones. He is not remotely interested in any other book that I try to read to him. I remember the book from school. I used to love it. I now hate it…with a passion. Burn the book. Burn the book. Please!

    Pen x #fridayfrolics

  11. helen gandy says:

    Yes….yes!!! This is us,we often have the ‘nooo not that one’ and I am guilty of trying to skip a few lines but it never gets passed Alfie. Thanks for linking up! #bestandworst

  12. So true. We are at the read the same book 10 times a day stage with the toddler. However my big one has just discovered reading to himself at night in bed. He does it out loud, but it’s so sweet. He also likes more ‘grown up’ books now. We have read Charlie & The CHocolate factory 5 time this year! #FridayFrolics

  13. Oh you’re right! Seems like such a nice, contained, pleasant experience, but the interruptions just break me!!! Grabbing at pages, draping themselves across my head, deciding they hate this book when you’re on the second last page… #FridayFrolics

  14. Jane Taylor says:

    Brilliantly funny and insightful as usual! Oh, this used to be me…the girls are older now so let me assure you ‘this too will pass!’ I used to try and skip pages and they know!!!they know!!!’ I wish that bear had eaten the bleeping family just once!!! #fridayfrolics

  15. Emma says:

    Haha! So true that last “one more book” always causes me to want to scratch my eyes out. I always try to edge towards the door while still reading the book so that I can make a last minute dash out of the room, while shouting over my shoulder “nighhhhhhhhhhht darling” 😉

  16. Just yes to this! Why do they insist on going off and reading their own book at the same time? Or in my littlest one’s case – Run off to hide in the play tent as soon as I start to read? I suppose I should be grateful. While ever his bum is in there it isn’t obscuring any pages! 😉 Brilliant to the letter xx

  17. I agree – reading is far from a relaxing activity. The Popple likes to bring me a book, listen to me read two pages, then go get another. And repeat. Or make me read the same story over and over until I want to poke my eyes out. #FridayFrolics

  18. When my oldest was two she wanted us to read “Make Way For Duckling” one hundred times a day. It is the longest most boring book on the planet. I think I actually cried reading it a few times….from the sheer pain of it all.

    I hid that book with all of the other kids…

  19. Ha ha, love this. I can defintetly relate to the obstructed viewing and page turning! My daughter like to spread all the books all over the floor and stare at them for ten minutes before deciding which she’ll read first, it can be a looooong process. Thankfully I have always stuck to a two book maximum at bed time and both kids have gotten used to this and don’t try to push it too much otherwise they would never go bed.
    #PoCoLo #BloggerClubUK #brillblogposts #TheList

  20. Your blog always takes me back to those rosy (and challenging) days of raising really small children. I loved reading to my sons and still can’t part with some of their favorites — “Goodnight Moon” and “The Cat in the Hat” come to mind. Thank you for this wonderful reminder.

  21. Sharon Parry says:

    Oh my god i love this!! I have been through this with all three of mine. I still have their favorite books in my bedroom – I can’t bear to put them up the attic. They all found them the other day and started reminiscing -and reading them to each other – which is more than they ever did when i wanted them too!! #Fridayfrolics

  22. Oh how I recall these days, because like the books are burned in their memories, so are the times. Some books I had to hide and/or donate. No lie! Good luck with this stage. Lifelong love of reading…Oy! #FridayFrolics

  23. Jennifer says:

    I didn’t have extreme reading issues, but when young, my son insisted on having the same two books read to him every night for almost two years. He wouldn’t go to sleep without hearing “Goodnight Moon” and “Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me.”

  24. This was accurate for my own son and now I see history repeating itself with my two grandsons. Universal toddler reading truths! The crazy thing is my 2 yr old grandson finally sat and paid attention to a book all the way through and it is a first grade level book. We decided we’ve been ‘reading down’ to him for the past year of his life. LOL!

  25. Min says:

    Piglet has gone from eschewing all literature to demanding the same book be read innumerable times back to back by different people. I try to steer him towards the Julia Donaldson books, but often he is more enamoured by books which are just pages and pages of pictures of diggers and fire engines. He has however discovered a particular liking for one of my books, a book of local railway walks, just because it has a picture of a train on the front, and I now spend hours reading him large sections of random local history! #FridayFrolics

  26. We were packing for holiday tonight and it was like coming up with a war strategy: “Ok, when Henry falls asleep, you grab the dinosaur book and the dog one. I’ll then secure the Elmo one and perhaps we should bring food truck one just in case…” Ridiculous ^_^

  27. Jaki says:

    You’ve got this totally and utterly down to a T! And thank goodness it’s not just mine that does this! God bless ’em & their desire to not go to bed!! 🙂 #pocolo

  28. Kate Eccles says:

    Love sharing books with mine but sometimes I’m right there with you, especially the extreme reading – breastfeeding baby, toddler insisting he holds book so trying to read upside down, basically making it up as I go along but then my eldest saying “no that’s not right…you’ve missed a bit… mum do the voices…” #KCACOLS

  29. Ah the reenactment of the stories as you read out loud!! Or, their teds acting out the story, or even the teds reading the story!! Yes. I had to do this with 2 toddlers…twin toddlers!!! Eeeshk! #fridayfrolics

  30. Savannah says:

    Oy, so I guess the reading olympics never end, haha. My 17 month old is in the phase where he likes the same one book 5467883 times per day. And, expect a full tantrum if you don’t let him turn the pages as he wishes! #KCACOLS

  31. I know sooo many books off by heart but I am quite lucky that both mine genuinely love reading and do let me read and keep still ‘properly’. But once I start they will keep bringing books indefinitely… thanks so much for linking with #KCACOLS. We hope you come back next week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *