5 Things Experts Don’t Tell You About Reading to Kids

reading to kidsWe live in a world of Instagram and Pinterest, where “perfect” families make “perfect” crafts and have “perfect” lives. Let’s be serious. We post the good pictures on social media, but how many outtakes did it take to get that perfect shot? Reading to kids falls under this umbrella too. I have posted photos on my Instagram of my daughter and I curled up and reading together. And that totally happens! But I will not lie to you. There are definitely days where that perfect picture is NOT what happened!

I started this blog to encourage families to spend more time together reading, learning and enjoying books. The activities that I share are meant to be easy for everyone to do, without any pressure to be perfect. I am far from perfect, and that is okay. I have read a lot of literature on reading to kids and teaching them how to read, and today I decided to share the top 5 things that experts in reading don’t tell you.

1. There is no such thing as the perfect read aloud!

The picture perfect read aloud photos we see on social media make it seem so easy to get your kid to snuggle up with you and read story after story, sharing laughs and teaching them about reading. Back in the real world, how many times have you had more than one kid on your lap fighting over a book? How about a child who keeps flipping the pages back and forth while you are trying to read it? These are all part of the read aloud experience, but you won’t see them photographed for the world to see! Learning to let go of the “perfect” read aloud scenario can help you to get less frustrated during these moments and see the humor in the chaos.

read aloud
While we have some reading times that look like this, it isn’t the whole picture!

2. Kids will get bored and walk away.

I cannot tell you how many times my daughter has brought a book to me and asked me to read it, only to get bored and walk away one page into it. There are a few books that she will close on me on the exact same page every time. It’s like there is some internal timer or a message I’m not seeing in the illustrations. Either way, I have learned not to get frustrated and I let her get up and walk away.

Sometimes I will finish reading the story while she walks around the room (hey, I want to know what happens to Llama Llama this time!). Other times, I will close the book and dutifully accept the next one that she hands me. Forcing her to sit with me and finish a story that she obviously isn’t interested in at the moment won’t end happily for either of us.

reading to kids
Sometimes she would rather read to her stuffed animals

3. Avoiding frustration is better than forcing it!

No matter what age your children are, there can be nights when reading together is frustrating. If your toddler refuses to sit still or gives you 400 different books to read, or your beginning reader is too tired and frustrated to read or look at books any more, then you can call it a night. Don’t be so focused on the idea that you have to read together every single night, that you all end up frustrated and near tears by the time you turn the lights out! All of the research in the world about the benefits of reading to kids doesn’t mean anything if your “reading” time is actually spent fighting or crying!

reading to kids
“Hmmm… not this book… or this one… or this one…”

4. It is totally normal and okay to hide that book you have reread 6,000 times this month

I love children’s books. I love re-reading some of my daughter’s favorite books to her over and over again, because they bring her joy and she learns a little more each time. The research shows that kids really benefit from hearing the same stories over and over again. Putting that aside, we all reach a point where we think about hiding that book, at least for a little bit, to avoid looking at it one more time today.

I love Dr. Seuss, and Fox in Socks is one of our favorites. However, there have definitely been a few days where the fox went “missing” for a bit. Unfortunately, my daughter has found most of my book hiding places, so I will have to find new ones. But there is no shame in sending Fox or Llama or any of our other character friends on a mini vacation once in a while.

5. Kids will not remember perfection

This may be the most important point of all. Your kids will not remember every detail of every read aloud. They will not remember if you had a night or two where you skipped some pages, or if you started 3 different books and didn’t make it through any of them. They will remember that you read to them; plain and simple. Don’t stress yourself to create the perfect read aloud experience, when your kids just need a read aloud experience!read aloud

The most important part of reading with your kids is reading with your kids! It doesn’t matter how much you read every night, or what you read, or who does the reading. What matters is that you are reading together and building a bond through books. Forget those perfect Instagram photos. Focus on the imperfect, but totally awesome read aloud that you and your family share.


If you want to really rock read aloud when everyone is ready to snuggle up, check out this post full of great tips!

56 Comments

  • candy

    May 18, 2017 at 7:56 am Reply

    Very interesting read. Going to show this to several friends who are teachers and see what they have to say. I see a discussion coming.

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 12:46 pm Reply

      Thank you!

  • Ayana

    May 18, 2017 at 11:39 am Reply

    I do try to rotate books every few weeks! We have so many and he mostly likes to just pull them all off the shelf so I keep about 10 in the living room, 5 by his potty, and 10 in his room for bedtime stories. (that’s not an exact number. It’s probably more than that) but then when I get sick of them I rotate them. He actually does pretty well at sitting for a story but only if it’s an older book that he knows. New books take him a while to warm up to! And I’m with you, sometimes when he wants to bail early I’m so ocd that i just HAVE to finish it. Even if it’s just in my head!

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 12:48 pm Reply

      Haha, oh I absolutely get that! I have such an issue with not finishing pages or the book!

  • Casey

    May 18, 2017 at 12:57 pm Reply

    I so appreciate this post. I can relate to everything you said, and I’m so glad it’s not just happening to me. I’ve definitely hidden plenty of books and had many fights over my lap! Let’s not mention when the little one just slams all of the books shut… thanks for reminding us it’s not always easy and as perfect as it looks.

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 1:09 pm Reply

      I’m glad others have the same experiences! It’s so important to remember that we don’t have to be “perfect” to be amazing parents!

  • Ashley Peggs

    May 18, 2017 at 1:57 pm Reply

    Great tips! I love the part about hiding a well read book! I know the importance of rereading but sometimes reading Pinkalicous again might just be the death of me!

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 2:03 pm Reply

      Haha, I knew there were other moms who felt the same way!

  • Meredith

    May 18, 2017 at 2:42 pm Reply

    HAHAHA I love these tips–my daughter is a year, and she has the attention span of a goldfish!!! I read like two pages and she wants another book!!

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 8:54 pm Reply

      Haha, exactly! We have had several reading sessions like that!

  • Corey | The Nostalgia Diaries

    May 18, 2017 at 2:59 pm Reply

    I love these reminders. It’s a good metaphor for life: things never go as planned 🙂

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 8:55 pm Reply

      Exactly! That’s a great way to look at it!

  • Jordan | Read. Eat. Repeat.

    May 18, 2017 at 4:47 pm Reply

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for #4. There are a few books we have read so many times that I literally start to fall asleep when we read them now because I’m so bored. I don’t understand why that is…they have an absolutely ridiculous selection to choose from!

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 8:55 pm Reply

      I totally get it! Even some of my favorites to read can start to drag after a while!

  • Leila

    May 18, 2017 at 5:10 pm Reply

    Great tips! I love the part about hiding a well read book too 🙂

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 8:56 pm Reply

      Haha, I have a few hidden right now!

  • Jehava

    May 18, 2017 at 7:10 pm Reply

    Great things to remember! Now I don’t feel bad about hiding the same books lol

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 9:02 pm Reply

      Haha, we’ve all been there!

  • Brenda

    May 18, 2017 at 7:37 pm Reply

    This is great, especially #4! I think I need to hide a book or two (sorry, If You Give a Moose a Muffin!). The great thing about all of this is that one day, they WILL sit and read, and read, and read.

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 9:03 pm Reply

      Exactly! It can be frustrating when it doesn’t seem like they are paying attention, but they are!

  • Nisha

    May 18, 2017 at 8:00 pm Reply

    These are great tips! I love the part about hiding a well read book, I do that with toys as well to rotate them every few weeks.

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 9:03 pm Reply

      Yes! It’s so fun to see them rediscover old toys!

  • Justine Y @ Little Dove

    May 18, 2017 at 8:27 pm Reply

    LOL, yes! “Perfect” reading times are few and fair between! Most people don’t realize that.

    • Vicki

      May 18, 2017 at 9:03 pm Reply

      Exactly! We think everything has to go according to plan!

  • Emily

    May 19, 2017 at 7:24 am Reply

    I took a Teaching Reading class in college, and reading aloud was something they stressed so much. I remember them saying we need to read aloud to kids because it’s a commercial for reading. They’re much more likely to read later in life If you read to them as kids!

    • Vicki

      May 19, 2017 at 12:41 pm Reply

      It is so true! Reading aloud to kids has been proven to be one of the most effective strategies to getting kids to become readers themselves!

  • Stephanie

    May 19, 2017 at 7:25 am Reply

    I love this post so much! THIS is what every parent or caregiver needs to hear. Sharing this everywhere!

    • Vicki

      May 19, 2017 at 12:42 pm Reply

      Thank you so much! It is so easy to get caught up in worrying about doing everything perfectly! Parents need to know that not being perfect is totally okay!

  • emily

    May 19, 2017 at 9:11 am Reply

    Number four. Love it!

  • Jamie Van Cuyk

    May 19, 2017 at 11:03 am Reply

    Yes! I love when my kids decide to play “choose your own adventure” when we are reading books. Who say you have to read the pages in order when going page 1, page 6, page 3, page 6, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 2, page 7 is so much more fun!

    • Vicki

      May 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm Reply

      That is awesome! What a great way to let them have control of the storytime!

  • Mamaguru

    May 19, 2017 at 4:49 pm Reply

    I think #4 will save a lot of sanity! It took me a long time to be comfortable doing that and then I wondered what took me so long!

    • Vicki

      May 19, 2017 at 10:04 pm Reply

      Me too! I felt bad at first, but sometimes it is better to try something different for a night!

  • The how-to Guru

    May 19, 2017 at 5:01 pm Reply

    This topic is so near and dear to my heart! Great job. Keep up the great work with this blog!

    The How-to Guru

    • Vicki

      May 19, 2017 at 10:05 pm Reply

      Thank you!

  • Amanda

    May 19, 2017 at 5:52 pm Reply

    I literally just breathed a sigh of relief after reading this! I am such a bookworm and want to share my love for books with my kids, but it can be such a frustrating experience with littles. I am so relieved that I am not the only one with kids who sometimes don’t want to finish the story, or only ask for 1 book over and over again, or who flip pages back and forth. But you are right–it doesn’t have to be picture perfect.

    • Vicki

      May 19, 2017 at 10:09 pm Reply

      I’m so glad it gave you some comfort! It’s helpful to realize we aren’t alone, and that those nights won’t hurt the chances of our kids becoming bookworms.

  • Hanna

    May 19, 2017 at 7:27 pm Reply

    The “kids will walk away” one is my son! Or he talks through the entire book, but if I stop its the end of the world! haha Still we love story time!

    • Vicki

      May 19, 2017 at 10:12 pm Reply

      Haha, my daughter is the same way! She can walk away or seem like she isn’t paying attention, but if I stop reading, she doesn’t understand why!

  • Lisa Roe

    May 19, 2017 at 8:56 pm Reply

    This is great. We all get caught up in the dream of a perfect postcard reading time when what we need to focus on is the time spent together. One fun thing we did when reading to our kids and it depends on the ages of the kids you are reading to, but use the same book (you have read 1000 times) and make up a totally different story to go with the pictures.

    • Vicki

      May 19, 2017 at 10:14 pm Reply

      That’s a great idea! My daughter likes to “read” the book along with me because she’s memorized it.

  • Mica

    May 19, 2017 at 10:20 pm Reply

    Oh I liked that point about some kids wandering away! My eldest LOVES books and would sit for hours reading them. His younger brother prefers to have a bit read to him, wander away and then crawl back into my lap to read more haha.

    I rotate their books around too so I’m not reading the same ones over and over – although they clearly have their favourites!

    • Vicki

      May 20, 2017 at 9:12 am Reply

      My daughter loves to read, and when she gets up and wanders away she expects me to keep reading and gets upset if I stop!

  • val

    May 20, 2017 at 10:44 am Reply

    my son totally walks away all the time!

  • Liz

    May 22, 2017 at 9:05 pm Reply

    Great post. Much as we all know reading to our kids is important, if reading becomes something that is frustrating for one or both involved, then it will not have the desired effect – to build lifelong readers. Thanks for these great reminders!

    • Vicki

      May 22, 2017 at 11:30 pm Reply

      It is so true! Too often we feel like we need to force it because we know reading to them is a good thing, but reading to the point of frustration doesn’t help anyone!

  • Jalisa

    May 23, 2017 at 11:33 am Reply

    Getting bored and walking away definitely does it. My son will be dying for me to read away to him. Then as soon as I open the book the up he say mommy I will read to you or walk away haha. Finding the right book. Even if it’s the same book we’re reading I have seen he will sit and let me read it to him.

    • Vicki

      May 23, 2017 at 12:10 pm Reply

      Yes! The begging for reading and then walking away can be so frustrating!

  • Brittany Ferrell

    May 23, 2017 at 6:44 pm Reply

    I love this so much because as a teacher, I plan the “perfect read aloud” as part of my lessons. Of course, they do not always go as planned, but my students usually enjoy the experience and at least sit there the entire time I am reading. Then…I became a mom. I taped myself reading aloud to her while I was pregnant (because that is how much I love read alouds) and then she hit toddlerhood and as you mentioned, will sometimes just get up and walk away. I have totally hidden “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” a few times and totally changed (read: skipped) entire sections of a book because it cannot keep MY attention. This is a great reminder that it does not have to be perfect, just read as much as you can, when you can! Keeping it fun really helps them get excited about coming to school someday!

    • Vicki

      May 23, 2017 at 10:44 pm Reply

      Haha, so funny your said that about changing the book because I just changed the words to The Day the Crayons Quit tonight because I couldn’t read the yellow crayon in the dark room! She won’t remember that there were days I skipped sections, but she will remember that we read together! That’s the most important part.

  • Innana

    May 23, 2017 at 8:20 pm Reply

    I just laughed out loud at number 4 because I have totally done that! We have this one ABC book that my Son would literally want me to read 20 times a day. I had to hide it for a few weeks as I needed a break! LOL

    • Vicki

      May 23, 2017 at 10:46 pm Reply

      Haha, I’m glad I’m not alone!

  • marvina

    May 24, 2017 at 11:39 am Reply

    Haha I loved this…interesting read yet so true 🙂

    • Vicki

      May 24, 2017 at 12:18 pm Reply

      Thank you!

  • Rabia @ The Liebers

    May 24, 2017 at 2:39 pm Reply

    We are reading chapter books and my biggest issue comes when one kids doesn’t want to listen for an evening, but then gets mad that he missed part of the story. I know it’s really more of a learning experience for him, but I still hate having the argument about it.

    • Vicki

      May 24, 2017 at 8:21 pm Reply

      That’s an excellent point! I can see how that would be a tough argument to have. I hope for your sake it doesn’t happen too often!

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