I miss reading picture books with my kids! They’re both teenagers now and prefer reading on their own. Which of course, was always the goal.

The great thing about reading with young kids is that it’s so interactive. There’s more to it than just the story. You create a bond as they sit on your lap. You share reactions, laugh and learn together, and wonder together. That’s the beauty of picture books.

Here are a few suggestions for milking those moments for all they’re worth!

  1. Finishing Sentences

When you let kids finish a sentence in a book, it helps keep their attention and builds their confidence. Reading rhyming texts is particularly conducive to creating expectations of what will come next. Even if kids are reading a story for the first time, they might be able to predict which word comes next based on the rhyme scheme. How rewarding!

  1. Asking Questions

Asking questions also keeps kids engaged and builds reading comprehension. You don’t want to overdo it with questions and ruin the flow or the fun. But it’s nice to sprinkle in a few.

Some examples of questions you can ask: 

-Before turning a page: what do you think will happen next?

-While looking at a new cover or endpages: what do you think this book will be about?

-What does the author do? What does the illustrator do?

-Who was your favorite character? If you could be a character in the book, who would you want to be? If you could add your own character, who would you add?

  1. Playing

My kids would often act out stories with their toys after we were done reading. It helped them solidify concepts and made reading more fun. For example, after reading a non-fiction book called “Octavia and Her Purple Ink Cloud”, they would make a big blanket “ocean wave” splash down or a shark swim by, while their stuffed animals acted out different defenses, like the ones shown in the book. You could also incorporate book themes into snacks or other activities. I’ve had emails from parents and librarians who took kids on shape-hunting adventures in their own neighborhood after reading “City Shapes”. There were also kids who threw their own “Unicorn Day” parties and made their own glittery signs. Lots of authors and publishers have free activity sheets and/or teacher’s guides on their websites. I have some, as well.

  1. Choosing

Finally, I think it’s important to let kids choose. If you can tolerate it, there’s nothing wrong with reading a book for the 100th time. Kids may find comfort in such rituals. You can also make a pile of choices that include unexpected options. An older child might want to choose a board book that seems “babyish”, for example. They might enjoy reminiscing and feeling a sense of accomplishment as they realize how much they’ve grown. On the other hand, maybe they’ll want to try a chapter book. Perhaps they’d be curious to take a peek inside and read just a page or two. No matter what, I think letting them choose is so important. Choice gives kids a sense of independence and acceptance. I always get upset when I see parents at book festivals telling kids they can’t have a book because “it’s for babies” or it’s only “for boys/girls”. I know that sometimes parents are on a budget or short on time and only want to pick books within a certain reading level or on a topic they are certain will hold interest. But I think keeping an open mind about what’s appropriate and letting kids steer the way can go a long way to developing a child’s love of reading.

Diana Murray is the author of over twenty children’s books, including Jr. Library Guild selections like CITY SHAPES and GOODNIGHT, VEGGIES, as well as the bestselling UNICORN DAY series, and award-winning early readers like PIZZA PIG. Diana grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two children, and a dancing dog.