I love to read, and I love to read to my children. My first child, M, loved books even as a baby. She would sit in our laps and just listen, look, and enjoy books. My second child, E, would not tolerate books, even before he could walk. He just didn't enjoy reading with us. We kept reading, and didn't require him to sit while we read. We never gave up though, and I knew it at the doctor's office E chose to read books instead of playing with the cars in my purse. Triumph!
Our persistence paid off, and I thought I would share some of the things that seemed to help our child gain an appreciation for books at a young age, especially for babies and toddlers.
Lift-the-flap and touch and feel books were the first books that perked our son's interest.
Pat the Bunny, Wild Animals Touch and Feel, and any Karen Katz book may be some books to try! Personally, I think interactive books are an awesome way for any child to experience books, especially during the first two years of life. (You also cannot go wrong with a book such as these to give to a new baby or expectant parent!) My four year old still loves interactive books!
Don't Read the Book
Occasionally, instead of reading the book, consider just pointing to parts of the illustration and naming it (cow says "moo", ding-ding, ssss-snake, uh-oh). Let your child turn the page when they are ready, even if you skip the page entirely. If your child can talk, they may even start saying words to explore the pages on their own.
This is pretty simple and obvious, but if your child has demonstrated an interest in something try to find books that are about that subject or character (such as Blue from Blue's Clues or Elmo from Sesame Street). For our son that meant lots of tractor, truck, and train books. Freight Train, Baby Touch and Feel Trucks (the first book he ate-literally*), and The Fire Engine Book were some early favorites that have stood the test of time. I would caution you to still explore a variety of books with your child and not read only one type of book. If your child watches television shows such as Maisy, Clifford, or Franklin, you should know that those shows are all based on books, and there are a ton out there!
Let Them Play
Read aloud while your child is playing in the same room as you. Just being exposed to books, even if they are not turning pages and looking at every picture is still important! Eventually, your child may even come to your lap when you begin a book.
Be a Model
Let your little ones see you read throughout the day. Since their books are in paper/board form, it is good for them to see you reading books or magazines, too, not the computer screen!
Let Them Choose
We make a trip to the library every couple of weeks. When we go I take two big, sturdy bags with us that can hold MANY books. We typically bring home 20-30 children's books and a few audio books, too. I pick many of the books myself (and also use the library's website to search for books throughout the county and place them on hold), but I also let the children choose books themselves. I rarely say no to a book, though there are a few that I don't prefer in our home (certain characters with a bit of a reputation or attitude). Just the other week, we were walking to the kids' section and walked by nonfiction adult books. My daughter saw a BIG book about the "universe" and was thrilled. We brought it home and looked at some pictures. My son will also choose books, especially from the library bins and tubs that show the covers instead of just the spines.
We like to have book parties. Often we do this after a trip to the library. We just collect a bunch of books and place them on the bed or floor. Then the children take turns picking books for Mom to read for as long as they'll listen. My daughter has suggested it on her own, too.
If we get new books or dig different books from our basement, I will often showcase them on our coffee table. Sometimes we need to do this just so we're not reading the same ones over and over again!
We also like to give books as gifts. Though not every child gets excited about books, many do! At the last birthday part we attended for a 5 year old, we gave the book Poppleton. When M's little friend opened it, she said, "Wow! A book!"
Having a special place to read is also fun for a child. It may be under a blanket tent, table, or slide. Below my daughter, then 2, was sitting in a bookshelf (with no shelves). She had pulled the blanket down for privacy and had a few books to read. She used this book nook for quite a while!
Our children were both in a twin bed before their second birthdays, but we always put books in the crib with the children. Upon awakening or going to sleep, they could relax and read to themselves. Though our son did not like books when he had other toys to play with as a baby, he did look at the books when his options were limited. Once the children had the bed, they could access their bookshelves on their own, and often took books to bed with them. One important note is to read throughout the day and not just at bedtime.
It's important to have books in a few different places in your home. Even if it is just a basket in the bedroom and another in your living room, it allows the child and you the chance to remember to read. Though we use bookcases and baskets, we are not fussy about how the books are returned to the shelves. Some days the books are not returned to the shelves and remain scattered about the house. That's okay, too, for our family. The books in the children's bedrooms are rarely standing with spines out, but we don't mind. Occasionally, we make the shelves look like a library.
The bottom line is READ despite your child's indifference. Eventually-hopefully, they will love books, too! If your own children's book collection is small, don't forget your local library. They often have board books in a special area for parents like you! You may also have a friend who is out of the board book stage and willing to give or loan you books. It's worth a try!
* As a baby, our son didn't necessarily read books in his crib. He ate them instead. We lost a few books to E chewing on the spines of books. However, he was "exploring" the books. That is supposed to be important for babies, though I don't think they have much fiber in them. Sadly, many of our near-perfect books from his older sister's baby days don't look so great now. But they are loved, and that is much more important!