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Top tips for story time

A book or three when tucked up in bed is a lovely way to end the day. Snuggling up for a bedtime story is also a brilliant excuse for some cuddle time – not that you need one. Those early evening moments will help them feel relaxed and settled, and bring the two of you closer. Their love for books and reading starts right here.

Tips for bedtime stories

Tip #1: A book and a cuddle every night

Read to them to help them sleep

Read to them to help them sleep

Try making it part of your bedtime routine. Cosying up with a book lets your toddler enjoy a cuddle and hear your voice as you read the story.

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Tip #2: A soft voice

Reading to them in a soft voice helps them feel calm and sleepy. That also means picking a story that’s not too wild and exciting. Pirates vs dinosaurs is probably not a good choice.

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Tip #3: Short and sweet

It doesn’t have to be a long story, or have words at all if they’re really wee. Start by pointing out and talking about the pictures – that works well as a quick and easy way to get them interested.

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Tip #4: Question time

Get them to ask questions while you read

Get them to ask questions while you read

Ask questions to keep them interested and get them thinking about the story. The simpler the better. Where is the main character going? What are they wearing? Can you remember their name?

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Tip #5: New words

Try building your little one’s bank of words with questions like "Did you see that yellow car?" or ‘What colour is that tractor?” You might think they don’t know what the words mean, but babies’ brains are like wee sponges – you’d be amazed what they pick up even when they’re tiny.

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Tip #6: Let them turn the pages

While you’re reading, take your child’s hand in yours and run their fingers along the words as you read. When you get close to the end of the page get them ready to help you turn it over. This can be very exciting, particularly if it is a picture book.

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Tips for getting them ready to read along

Tip #1: Repeat repeat repeat

Dad and his wee boy reading together

Dad and his wee boy reading together

Children love to hear the same story over and over again. While that can be pretty boring for you it really helps them learn about books. First they’ll notice the pictures, then they’ll learn to turn the page, and before you know it they’ll be finishing the sentences then reading along with you. Rhyming books are brilliant for that because they can start reading along without even noticing.

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Tip #2: Role reversal!

Let your little one read to you. Even if they’re just making up their own story they will be going through the movements of reading. Get them to turn the pages and run their finger along the words. They might even want to show you how the pictures on the page fit into the story they are telling you.

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Tip #3: Show them the words

Running your finger along the words as you read helps to show your child where the story is coming from. When you pick a book, show them the words on the cover and ask them to guess what the story might be about. They may not be able to sound out the words but they will get used to the idea that words are made of different sounds.

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Tip #4: Try videos

There are lots of great videos online which show the story being told while the words appear below the action. Try pausing the video and sounding out the words for your child.

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Tips to keep them concentrating

Tip #1: Build a fort

If you’re trying to settle down for some reading, tire them out by getting them to build a fort to read in. This will be their own special wee space that they’ll want to spend time in. Maybe reading a book about castles or caves would go perfectly with this new hidey space?

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Tip #2: What happens next

Get your little one to tell you what they think will happen next. If they know the story and they guess right, praise them and run your finger along the sentence that confirms their guess. Try sounding out the words as you point to them.

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Tip #3: Ask questions

When you have finished a page, ask your little one some questions about what you’ve been reading. Asking them who their favourite characters are, or what colour something might be keeps them interested and listening.

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Tip #5: Carry books for them and you

We always try and have a wee book with us so that if we are on the bus or waiting at the doctors you can get it out to distract them for a bit. 

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This article was created as part of

Play Talk Read