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Back when we were still expecting our son to be born, we were told all about how important it was to read to our son, even before he was born.

Being avid readers ourselves, my wife and I felt this was a good idea. We read to him daily, both before he was born and after. Now, at 16 months, it is firmly a part of his daily routine.

However, I'm starting to wonder if it is perhaps too much of a part of his routine.

The first thing he does in the morning after eating is to ask for a book. He wants us to read to him constantly. While he does play with his other toys, books are his clear favorite. Its not uncommon for him to ask that the same book be read to him 7 or 8 times in a row.

He gets plenty of physical exercise, and I don't believe he spends too much time reading during daycare on the weekdays, but it seems like as much as 50% of our direct interaction with him may involve reading to him.

Beyond our own patience and tolerance, is there a point at which we should say "no more books; go and play with your other toys"? Can too much focus on books interfere with his development of other skills? If so, how do you tell when you are reaching that point?

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I'm wondering if playing with Lego 50% of the day would seem equally worrisome. Perhaps it would. I can't tell. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jan 9 '12 at 19:48
    
not worth a full on answer, but to answer the question: "Can a toddler spend too much time with books?" Nope. –  monsto Jan 16 '12 at 10:04

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Reading is like any other activity. It only becomes harmful when it is done to the exclusion of other important activities or replaces real life interactions. This might happen when he is older and can read by himself, and chooses to do so instead of his homework, physical activity, or meeting friends. Or if it is impacting his health, like by constantly staying up so late reading that he is always tired at school.

At this age, your patience is going to wear out way before any harm is done. Keep in mind that spending time with you giving your undivided attention is likely just as important to your son as the particular activity you're engaged in. If you pay attention to him during reading, then tell him to play by himself afterward, then he's going to want to be read to more often. My son is always asking to get his hair cut, even though it scares him a little, because it's one of the few things we go out and do together without his sisters getting in the way.

In other words, if you want to vary his interests more, then do them together more often.

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"At this age, your patience is going to wear out way before any harm is done" :) –  Benjol Jan 11 '12 at 8:15

We had the exact same problem and not only was she not playing enough (in our minds) but we were going crazy reading all the time. We finally put a three book limit per sitting. She brought us books and we would read three and then say it is play time. Later in the day we were willing and ready to read three more. This worked for us and she learned to accept it, especially if we sat to play with her after the books were over.

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It is hard to prove that something "not dangerous", but: I have read many books (written by university professors) on child development and pedagogics, and studied my teacher's qualification studies in an university, and I have not met a single argument nor peer-reviewed study which would suggest that reading is harmful (if the child interacts with others and gets physical exercise).

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I am pretty sure that this is just a phase they go through. Books are fascinating little things and there is SO much in them. Our daughter used to have everyone continuously read her books - the same book a dozen or so times in a day! It drove us crazy and our mouths dry.

But this too, shall pass. She has just discovered a toy that makes you blurt out random words (from her perspective) and she is curious. She flips pages so we say different words. We never discouraged it, just lived through it.

Now if I start singing a particular rhyme (the book she had use read was a nursery rhyme book), she opens up the exact page that the nursery rhyme is on. She points to the characters and pictures that fascinate her. She'll go through all of her two dozen books or so and "read" them.

I wouldn't discourage this practice. It's a lot of fun watching them "read" a book to themselves. If you get frustrated, pick up your OWN book and put her beside you. Have her read her book, and you can read yours :)

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Don't worry about it. Balance will come in time and naturally. You can also try transitional activities: read about bridges, build a bridge. Read about an animal, act it out with the matching stuffie.

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Try out a little different. The basic idea seems to be exploring, wondering and imagining stuff and some books are really good. Try to persuade to try different flavors and some flavors like short puzzles for kids may give a different kind of values and perhaps lead her to more practical things (if those books themselves gave practical puzzles).

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How about linking books and physical activity? Eg read one book about cars, then go out and drive toy cars around a dirt track, or make a box into a car?

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