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Parenting -- Reading activities: children 2-6 years

Key points

  • Reading and storytelling helps your child’s development in many ways.

  • Start with picture books that have rhyme and rhythm or that are about your child’s interests.

  • Try to share at least one book with your child each day.

Reading: why it’s good for children

Reading and storytelling helps your child’s development in many ways.

These activities promote brain development and imagination, teach your child about language and emotions, and lay the foundations for literacy. Reading is also a great way for you to bond with your child and share time together.

Reading aloud and sharing stories is one of the most important and enjoyable things you can do with your child.

What you need for reading with your child

Reading with your child is all about having fun with books and spending special time together. All you need is a book that you and your child can enjoy together. You can borrow books from your local library – it’s free and fun.

Your child might enjoy:

  • simple stories with a beginning, middle and end

  • books that have good rhyme, rhythm and repetition

  • books about a favourite topic, like cars, fairies, insects or pirates

  • books about playtime that relate to their experiences

  • lift-the-flap, pop-up, alphabet, shape, size and counting books

  • books that use humour and have a sense of fun – for example, a character who uses a funny word or who is silly or even ‘naughty’.

How to enjoy reading and book time with your child

Here’s how you and your child can make the most of book time:

  • Help your child choose a book. It’s OK if your child chooses the same one over and over. If it’s one you haven’t read together before, look at the cover and ask your child what they think it might be about.

  • Ask your child to hold the book and turn the pages.

  • Read stories together. For example, repeat familiar words and phrases, and then get your child to fill in the words in familiar stories.

  • Vary the pace of your reading, as well as how loud you read. Changing your voice and expression for different characters and using gestures can also be fun.

  • Chant or sing repetitive phrases and words together. For example, ‘I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in’.

  • Point to things in the pictures and name them, or ask your child to name them. Talk about the pictures and ask your child questions – for example, ‘What do you think happens next?’ or ‘Why is the baby happy?’

Some general tips for reading with your child

  • Make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day.

  • Be guided by your child’s interest. If your child wants to spend more time reading, that’s great. And if your child sometimes wants only one book or story, that’s OK too.

  • Turn off the TV or radio and put your phone on silent, so your child can focus.

  • Hold your child close or on your knee while you read so your child can see your face and the book.

Adapting reading activities for children of different ages or children with diverse abilities

As your child gets older and is learning to read, encourage them to point out letters and words. You can even play ‘find the letters and words’, especially the letters in your child’s name.

Point out punctuation marks like full stops, exclamation marks and question marks. Explain what these mean – for example, ‘There’s a question mark. When we see one of those, we know that someone is asking a question’.

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