Posted by: littlebitofparadise | September 18, 2014

How to Read Good Books to Toddlers (Without the Baby Ripping All the Pages)


I never imagined my post about Twaddle would create such a stir – thank you so much for all the emails and messages and comments I’ve received this week! The two big questions (other than the Q’s about specific titles or authors being Twaddle or not) seem to be 1) HOW do you read to the kids consistently, especially with a baby in the house? and 2) WHAT books do you read to your kids? 

There is nothing my boys love more than read-aloud time with a parent. They would drop Hot Wheels, abandon their train set, turn down a television show, or choose it over going outside to swing. I would guess it’s a universal curiosity and love in young children…they seem hard wired to love a good story read upon mom or dad’s lap.

With my first son we read for hours from good books – every day. We read our collection of children’s books to the point where he had most of the words in most of the books memorized before he was two.

And then 17 months later after our first was born, we had another baby, and reading time got a bit more complicated. I’ve found that my babies want to be part of read-aloud time, snuggled just as close as their siblings. But they also pose a hazard and a nuisance to the whole situation.

Babies have pretty much nada attention spans and they are most likely to rip the pages right out of beautiful, colorful story books. To the aggravation of the parent but most especially to the other siblings. I can’t tell you how many story times have been cut short in our house because the baby interrupted or created havoc.

About nine months ago, I finally figured out how to do daily story time with my children in a way that guaranteed everyone would be happy, stay put, and not tear pages out of books.

I read to them at meal time! Breakfast and lunch, every week day.

With the boys happily munching on their meal while they listen to the stories, and the baby firmly secured in his high chair, I am free to turn pages, dramatize stories, and cover quite a bit of ground with books in our daily schedule. We’ve been doing it consistently for so long now that it’s second nature to my children. They love it!

At breakfast, I read them the life of a saint story or a Bible story. Eighty percent of the time it’s a Bible story. So far this year we’ve covered the major covenants, events, and figures of the Old Testament, and we’ve now moved into the Gospels.

At lunch, I used to let them pick the stories I’d read, but that was before I knew about Twaddle, or that we owned so much of it. Now I pick the stories – and we read poems and children’s classics. Everything from Mother Goose rhymes, A Children’s Garden of Verse, Robert Lewis Stevenson classics, Winnie the Pooh, and even the occasional Dr. Seuss or Harry the Dirty Dog. We also move through our stack of library books during lunch time stories.

Because we’ve made it a habit of reading during those two meals, it gives me peace of mind knowing they are read to every single day. I consider the spontaneous mid-morning story time when they bring a book to me, or bedtime stories with Daddy, icing on the cake. I know they’re learning, their imaginations are expanding, and we are free of the upset, page-ripping, can’t-sit-still baby problems that always seemed to arise from only reading together on the couch.

Slight caveat but an unexpected side effect of reading during breakfast and lunch has been a huge improvement in my boys’ table manners. They’ve learned that they cannot beg or whine for the story while I am eating my meal (I won’t lie – I pretty much scarf down my breakfast and lunch so I can get a good amount of reading in during meal time. Probably not the best for my digestive system, but totally worth it to me). Reading during meals also keeps the boys quiet, still, focused, and mostly non-interruptive. We always discuss the reading, I answer their questions, and I let them try to narrate back to me what they remember from the reading after I’m finished…but all of that is fairly elevated conversation for a 4 and 2 year old.  I’m loving it!

Biggest shocker of all – my 13 month old Rett LOVES read-aloud time at the table. He’s most fond of Dr. Seuss, but still- he pays attention, babbles a bit while I’m reading, and shows interest. Yes, he often tries to lunge for the book, but he’s out of luck. I’m too quick. ;o)


Do you have a Kindle? 

My friend Robina, who blogs at Motherly Loving and is even more of a book addict than I am, recently shared this with some homeschool moms about read-alouds, and I wanted to share it here because if you have a Kindle, y’all should try her method!

“I made a list of a few books that are free on kindle that have short stories in them and read a few a day at the breakfast table. That way if someone misses or is not with it that day they don’t get lost like you would with a longer book. I keep them all on my kindle app on my iPad and just pull that up. Sometimes we hop from these stories on little rabbit trails or map searches on the iPad so it works well to have them digital and it keeps me from having a big stack of books to keep up with and it holds my place for me.

This is my list of books compiled from some Charlotte Mason lists: Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, Blue Fairy Book, Burgess Animal Book for Children, Burgess Bird Book for Children, A child’s Garden of Verses, Classic Myths to read aloud, Fifty Famous Stories Retold, An Island Story, Just So Stories, A Life of Our Lord for Children, Old Peter’s Russian Tales, Parables from Nature.

I just read one story from 3-4 each day. I have it written on my lesson plan to help me remember which for what day but I think a random and casual approach would be great too. My kids love them and beg for read aloud time. It also keeps the breakfast time peaceful. We light a candle and it’s a nice way to start the day after prayer and the saint of the day from Saints for young Readers.”

Isn’t that an awesome idea? I love it.

Tomorrow I’ll share some of my boys’ favorite read-aloud titles. Be assured I’m going to beg for your favorites, too.





  1. Love this! There was a season where I found mealtime working wonderfully for reading, but then I got away from it wanting to try and encourage reading together in a reading space (not very realistic lol). Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful little trick for read-alouds! Also, love your friends tip to light a candle! The boys would love that!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: