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How to read a book to a toddler

How to read a book to a toddler

August 29, 2006

Now in twelve steps, because I can never do anything in just ten.

1) You will know your toddler wants you to read a book when they come up with the heavy board book and smack you with it a few times

2) Open the book

3) Toddler screams “NO!” and grabs book out of your hand and slams it shut. You did not properly announce the reading of the book, point to the cheeky Thomas character on the cover, and the planets were not yet aligned properly

4) Begin again

5) if there is an animal on the page you must point to it and make the animal noise

6) If you have ever pointed something out on a page, you will have to do it for all eternity. Keep this in mind when you are reading a book for the first time. Unless you enjoy turning a five page board book into a half an hour reading event.

7) There can be no deviation in the prescribed reading of the book, unless initiated by the toddler. Remember this.

8) Toddler will randomly point and turn pages in any direction of the toddler chosing. Toddler is master of the board book domain.

9) Failure to comply with any of the toddler demands will result in screaming, kicking, and the tearing of the book out of your hands. Whereupon you will be forced to begin the book again.

10)And you will like it

11 )And you will do it because of a little face like this. A face which belongs to a completely unreasonable creature, who’s only survival mechanism is this face and the fact that it actually believes the sun rises and sets on your words:

I want to gobble him up whole

12) But then you will distract the toddler and discreetly hide the book under your shirt, in the back waist band of your pants, or eat it. Depending on how tired you are of the book. Method of distraction is solely up to you, but I have found this one to be effective.

Posted by Chris @ 10:43 am  

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  1. Sara says:

    Oh I can’t count the number of times I’ve “discreetly” hidden books! I find that the waistband method is particularly efficient in that I am able to move said book to a new location and therefore remove it from the reading rotation for awhile…So glad I’m not the only one! I value reading to my children immensely and love to read myself, but really, how many times can one read Brown Bear, Brown Bear without going postal?

  2. Carolie says:

    5a. If you’ve ever used any funny voice for any characters in the entire book, you must replicate the funny voice, including pitch, exactly each time, regardless of the pain to your vocal cords or any current respiratory illness…

    Thanks for creating one of my all-time favorite blogs!

  3. Angela says:

    I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one hiding books in unusual places. Reading to a 3 year old is quite enjoyable. Reading to a toddler is self-abuse.

  4. cassie-b says:

    How could you refuse a little face like that?

    And they’re so cute when they’re sleeping.

    A word of advice - don’t buy a book you don’t want to read many many times.

  5. Novaks8 says:

    Try reading an I spy book to a 2 year old!

    She points to the clue page and says BALL, or HEART.

    she is probably thinking, Boy these books are really easy!

    She likes saying “mommy wead I spies pweese”

  6. peepnroosmom says:

    Try reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar board book to a toddler. He has to stick his little finger in every hole. Every single hole. Every single time.

  7. Wooden Porch says:

    Wow, your child has very nice teeth.

  8. InterstellarLass says:

    Or if you’re me, you only get half way through, and toddler decides book is boring and goes to get another book, and you manage to get through two pages of that before beginning book three. I have no idea how any of those books end!

  9. Lilly says:

    I read the older post you linked. Very funny. I remember that when my toddler would start to entertain himself by destroying something, I’d seriously weigh whether the 3-5 minutes of time I’d get were worth losing half the phone book or whatever other item he had in his mits.
    Yesterday, my now ten year old and I went through the remaining board books that we still haven’t thrown out due to sentimental attachment. I hadn’t seen some of them in a year or more but they still bring back a strong wave of the feelings of him slumped up against me doing just what you describe in today’s post. I think I’ll still keep a few of them just because they bring back that now wonderful/then kinda ‘No!!!!Not MrBrownCanMoo again!!!’ memory.

  10. Beth says:

    If we start to read one book, it now means we have to read ALL the books. Every single one comes down off the shelf in turn. Between each one he has to get up, go get another book, come back and re-situate on my lap, over and over again, until the floor is covered in books and we are sitting in a huge pile. Then he’s mad that he can’t walk because he slips on all the books.

  11. Metrodad says:

    Haha..you left out the part where the toddler tries to eat the book!

  12. kbeans says:

    Don’t forget the part where you look back with the oh, so small portion of your brain that still works and remember how wonderful it was going to be to pass on your love of books….mine are almost 7,9,12 now so that part is finally happening, but God, the horror.

  13. Sara says:

    Ooooh! Just noticed the site meter. It’s creeping on up there. 1 mil. is just around the corner…

  14. Susan says:

    Oh the hitting. I was so glad when we outgrew the smack-Mommy-with-the-Boynton-book phase.

    I still have the bruises.

  15. meredith says:

    Ah, the times I’ve had to begin again, due to my faulty-not-like-the-first-time reading :)

  16. hilary says:

    love it… I know the ritual. In our house you can tell the good books from the okay ones. Good ones- skip to the end, okay ones- switch stories halfway through. Sentimental books (such as goodnight moon) require back story intros- such as when my son was little he chewed the book, etc…

  17. cowmomba says:

    DADDY was the one who ruined reading books to toddlers for me. DADDY ad-libs- hysterically funny ad-libs.

    But when Mommy trys to read what is actually written- she gets the screaming chorus “THAT’S NOT how the story GOES!”.

    Ok DADDY! Your turn to read!

  18. Mel says:

    Once when my little brother was about 2 and I was trying to bake something, he wouldn’t leave me alone - so I handed him a bottle of windex and a cloth, and told him the reason the piano stool was black was that it was very very dirty, it should really be white, and if he’d just spray and wipe it long enough it would come clean again. Kept him busy for almost an hour!

  19. Nicki says:

    It really is so funny that you posted this today. I just spent a nice chunk of my morning reciting kids books that my mind has reatained through continious readings. I was trying to entertain my 2 year old at the Dr’s Office. I’m best at Chicka-chicka Boom-Boom, Brown Bear, and Go Dogs, Go. Whoever knew that they could get stuck in your head and go round and round like a song.

    A told B, and B told C, ” I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut Tree”

    The joys!!!

  20. Jeff says:

    My one year old loves “Goodnight Moon” and “Brown Bear”. We never make it to the end of either.

    Is reading these books more helpful for the kids then just talking/playing with them? It seems like the idea that it is has been beat into me, but after a few iterations of these twelve steps, I really start to question this. Not that I will stop reading to the kids, it adds some variety and lets me sit down for a few moments.

  21. Susan says:

    I read “Goodnight, Moon” so many times to my toddler that even today I could still recite it from memory — 9-10 years later.

    “In the great green room, there was a telephone, and a red balloon, and a picture of…”

  22. Meg says:

    This made me laugh out loud since I read “Clown of God” for the 10,450th time last night and pointed out bird, ball, cat, dog, and lady on every. single. page. And then I hid the book in the oven. Come to think of it, I should probably find a better hiding place….

  23. Lori Gammon says:

    If it has ANYTHING to do with Thomas the Tank Engine…Thomas and Friends, etc. I have read those upteen million times and TOTALLY agree with you! Just like Barney, Thomas is SATAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good luck and LOVE your blog!

  24. Karen Rani says:

    Well that’s how we do it around here too! We should get together for coffee and HIDE BOOKS! LOL!

  25. Jen says:

    Hi…I just found your site from a link somewhere, and I am so glad to have stumbled upon it! I’m the youngest of nine children, and your words remind me of things my mother might have said if blogs were around back then! You seem to have a great family, and I am excited to read about more of your adventures in the big yellow house. I have no doubt that I will plant my butt in front of my computer tonight and read through the last couple of years of your life.

  26. ben says:

    That describes perfectly how “If you Give a Pig a Pancake” went at our house.

    Over. and. Over.

    Then? They took the freakin’ mouse to school.

  27. Libargirl says:

    I tried hiding the book. I told my 2 y/o niece
    it’s gone…sorry book go nite nite
    she pulled me up and yelled FOUND IT. so yeah, hiding it didn’t work. Throwing it across the room and yelling fetch..worked for about 20 minutes until my sister yelled at me that she’s not a dog, then she started to bark so we weren’t sure. I love kids. Just the face of happiness and laughter is worth it.

  28. Dan says:

    (Your faith in me will be rewarded… with a comment! :))

    Great photo!

  29. Danielle says:

    i know this pain so well. The twins are forever bringing some book to me. As a teacher, I knew that I had a lot of books around us. As a mother I’m wondering why I had to bring this many boxes of them with us during the move.

  30. But Momma says:

    Number 6 is a killa!

  31. Kat says:

    I discovered the one-step alternative to this method last month: 1) Tell Daddy he is now in charge of bedtime. *grin*

  32. Steph. says:

    This was priceless. I am so burned out on my daughters books. She has me read the same ones over and over and over. UGH!

  33. Joy H says:

    BUT can you recite Barnyard Dance from memory even though you haven’t physically touched the book in years??

    You made reading to my little guy fun today. I was a lot more patient with his 2-1/2yo page turning madness :)

  34. Gillian says:

    This was wonderful! It did remind me of the treacherous shoals of reading books to the baby. ‘Hippos go Berserk’ was treasured. He looooooovvved ‘one hippo all alone, calls two hippos on the phone’ ect. The hippos going berserk was sooooooo funny! But when the hippos started to leave - great tumbling tears of heartbreak. No no no no no the hippos do not leave. We go directly back to the beginning and start over. Today he is two and a half and reads books to Grandma over the phone. Then he holds the pages up to the handpiece so I can see the pictures. ‘Oh, yes, I see.’ I lie.

  35. adwina-insparenting.com says:

    Definitely valuable and entertaining, Chris! I hope you don’t mind that I linked you up in my blog post, Reading to Your Toddler.

    Thanks a lot, Chris. Your little boy is so adorable. So is the picture.


  36. anthonysmom2000 says:

    I’ve already referred this primer to two friends with new babies. SO TRUE!

    Oh the bruises I’ve suffered for board books!

  37. Michele says:

    Joy H - Stomp your feet. Clap your hands. Everybody ready for the barnyard dance!

  38. kit says:

    I wrote a post last week about reading to my older two and the wriggling, squirming bundle on my lap obstructing the book and said I’d have to check in with you for advice …so how do you manage reading to them all at once? Not just the book choice, which is imposible even with three, but the physical ramifications of who gets to sit cuddled up next to you and who is the odd one out? I was going to put this on your other blog but then this post seemed right there on the subject!

  39. Randa Clay says:

    Thanks for the warning about the books! I have a 13 month old, and had no idea I was on my way to getting stuck in a reading rut.

  40. Paula says:

    Ah, yes. My A. is the same age as Miles, and she LOVES books. She insists on carrying over all of the books in the board book basket (50?) a handful at a time before we get started reading, mutter “Nudder” (another), so no matter how many I hide, she has a mountain ready to grab.

    My dh says that living with a toddler is like living in Wonderland (as in Alice’s) where all of the rules don’t make sense, and things are opposite or backwards of how they should be, but you don’t dare to point this out (not that it would make a difference to tell a toddler that they are irrational, anyway.

  41. Insparenting says:

    Reading to Your Toddler…

    What things do you usually -actually- do before and during the reading-to-your-toddler activity?
    Based on her practice, Chris (Notes from the Trenches), mom of seven, has a list of funny, helpful tips for you on how to read a book to your toddler.
    She …