Getting Toddler to like Books Again

Updated on August 26, 2008
A.D. asks from Albany, OR
7 answers

My son used to love looking at books--before he discovered running, climbing, bulldozers, the neighbor's cats, yard ornaments, etc. In other words, he is so on the go, it's about impossible to get him to sit still and look at a book anymore. He even gets angry about reading them before bed! Seriously, it's like he prefers to flop around in bed and watch his light show projector cast images on the ceiling. He pushes books out of my hands and points upward. Very frustrating to me, but I don't want to turn him against reading, so we skip the books at bedtime now. The only place I've figured out that I have him as a captive audience is in his high chair while he's eating--and he does seem to enjoy what I read to him (okay, it's the same book 50 times in a row, but I'll take it). Any other parents out there with creative ideas for this situation? BTW, I've tried getting him books on things he loves, which would be construction vehicles, farm equipment, cars, and generally anything on wheels. I also read my own books while he's having solo play, in the hopes that he sees how enjoyable books can be. I even try reading his books, to entice him--no dice. I tried creating a book with him too, with my shabby artwork and all. He was only mildly interested and then it was back to the toy tractor. I love to read, and I hope to raise a reader! Suggestions are appreciated.

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answers from Seattle on

hello- I wrote out this nice response, and lord only knows what happened, but it erased. So, here is a condensed version.
One, you keep on reading. It's good for your son to see you read.
Two, Keep reading to him when he is eating. That way he still gets to hear the stories. That's a great idea, I used to do it with my son as well.
Three, take him to the library story times!! My son, who is almost 3, also is not that big into books. My older son, 6, loved and still loves to read. But, we found that if I take them to the library they really enjoy it. The guy who is in Mill Creek ( I didn't check to see where you are from, but other mom's might want to know too!) has a guitar, and a puppet, and he looks like Santa! the boys (and little girl I nanny, 24 months) really like him, and he is super patient. He probably tells about 3 or stories. That might be something really great for your son.
Four, lastly, another mom also said it, but make sure you are being really expresive when you read. My boys love to read with me because I growl, laugh, yell, sing, dance (if the book calls for it) the whole time I A. reading. I really get into it. So, maybe if you are a bit expressive that might make it more fun also.
have fun, L.

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answers from Seattle on


He's boy, he's two, he's active. It's a phase. Keep the books on a bookshelf in his room. Make them available and he will start to come around eventually. My son is 5 and went through a similar phase where he wouldn't touch a book unless it was to chew it up or break the spine. He now can read to himself, and loves reading.

For now I'd let the books go and run him ragged everyday (if possible). There are some peekaboo type books that are lift the flap/pull the tab that might interest him, but for now shelve the books and try again later. If you force the reading he very likely will have a negative association with books.

I too A. a book worm,

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answers from Portland on

Try having lots of books always accessible to him and limit how many toys he has available. Rotate the toys he has. Also, when you read to him, be excited and silly and maybe even active. He will go through phases and right now, physical abilities is what he is focusing on. You can also put books in or near his crib so when he is falling asleep or waking up, he can read some books. If you push them on him against his will, you will teach him to hate them. If he sees you reading often, he will want to copy you and grow to love books as much as you do.

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answers from Portland on

My son did this too. I wouldn't push the issue, as it's just a faze. My son is 4 now and shows a lot of interest in books and learning words (spelling etc), but between 2-3 he could have cared less if I read him books. Just let him explore the world and keep the "book" option open when he's ready again.

Instead of reading books you could use this time to teach letters, the alphabet, counting, etc.

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answers from Seattle on

We did that!

My son taught himself to read by age three, and by 3 and a half was "done" having discovered/then in the process of discovering, 10,000 ways in which to to move his body.

We decided to let him move his body. :) Probably best decision ever.

We still read to him, using books that positively screamed for the use of crazy voices...and memorized lots of poems (shel silverstein, Eugene Field's Wynken Blynken & Nod, The Gingham Dog & the Calico Cat, The Sugar Plum Tree, etc.), but we didn't make a big deal out of it. He really LOVED memorizing poems...I think because he got to "move" in a new way. So too, the best advice I have ever been given about reading to kids is to read things to them that YOU like. Our tone, posture, & willingness, all so subtle are soaked up like a sponge by our kids. All that said, we let him move his body....the more we let him...the more he started to want some "down" time. That's when we'd read silly poems & etc. If he didn't want to though we didn't push it. "Okay! We can come back to it later if you want!"

A year later and he was interested in math, got the hang of it and dropped it like a rock. 6 months after that he got super interested in the Magic Treehouse Series and is still in in it. We'll see what happens next.

The only consistent thing I've gotten from my son is that he's out to discover the world. He gets basic proficiency in something and moves on to something new. He ALWAYS goes back to that first thing though...if I'm patient, and it's available, and if I'm not pushing it. (I think he gets suspicious that he's about to discover something I don't want him to know if I try and redirect him from what he loves at the moment to something he's shelved for the time being.) What got him back into reading, was loving stories. He always has, he just wanted to do a few other things first. And really, who can blame them? If MY body we capable of hurtling through the air and then bouncing like rubber I would probably put the book down and jump off the couch too! (My knees hurt and I'd hit the ceiling.)

If you haven't shown him, one great website is

It's a HUGELY interactive learning how to read site and was the only thing my super active little lightening bolt would sit still for, for a period of several months. It's designed PERFECTLY for toddlers, although it's marketed for Kindergarteners. I can't take credit for that though...I came home to find him sitting on my husbands lap clicking and moving the mouse. He was gentle with the computer right from the beginning...but didn't want to sit on anyones lap after about a week...he wanted to sit by himself. I think he could probably feel that we wanted to move on from the 200th repetition "A-astronaught baum baum baum bum baum baum dip do dooby dip do dooby <---aka my attempt to write down the music" to something else.

So that's been my experience with active little boys and reading. We all become experts in our own kids reeeal fast, but others' are mostly mysteries...but that's been our experience, and it seems to be pretty common. Interested. NOT. Interested. NOT. Interested.

Have Fun! (And possibly look into a drama or gymnastics class)


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answers from Portland on

I have two active boys, and we went through this too. What I started doing was having a quite time, usually before nap for thirty minutes or so. They were allowed to sit in their room and look at books but no toys or playing. (You might want to think of turning off the light show during this time.) Of course now that one of the boys is in pre-school we haven't really had a need for quite time as he is really interested in books. We do have a routine before bed where we read one or two books. I don't turn the night light one (A fish aquarium thing, that completely holds them in awe.), just have the regular light on and let them flop around quietly while I read.

Try asking him about what books he likes... If he really likes Tractors take him to a bookstore to pick out a tractor book. He will be just as excited to read it as he is to play with them. The Eric Carle Spider book did it for my son who has a fascination with bugs.

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answers from Portland on

Based on 40-plus years of experience in education and as a parent/granny/neighbor, Zoe A and Laura U are right on target. Very young children instinctively know what they need to do/learn/experience, and we thwart or force them to their detriment. Some of your comments suggest that you really know this already, but maybe don't quite trust your own heart-wisdom.

The world is filled with ideas about what kids "ought" to be doing for success in life (and that's usually defined in terms of "financial" success). Most of those theories are not based upon actual observation, but on ivory-tower hubris, and they feed upon parental anxiety and political ideas about "accountability," as well as the awkward belief in this materialistic age that financial success somehow equals happiness.

So, we have instant conflict: our wonderful, unique children are not little machines or bookkeeping ciphers, so they don't work according to such models. We learn so much from them when just turn off our concepts and watch how joyfully they explore their possibilities.

Decades of watching and asking about the kids around me who grew up happiest, most curious, and most satisfied, have convinced me that scholarly theories are largely misdirected. Who says a two-year-old must love books? If an idea arises that incorporates an "ought," a "should," or a "must," or if it is tied to an inflexible schedule, it generally has little to do with how children thrive educationally or spiritually.

Please let your son show you what he needs. If you don't make reading seem like an obligation for him, he will almost certainly get back to books when he's ready. (I'm also fascinated by his desire to watch his light show. It could be a form of baby-meditation.)

1 mom found this helpful
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