Ok, I'm struggling to read to the little'un. She loves books, in that throughout the day she will go and fetch books, and sit with them and turn the pages. The book might be upside down, but hey. Big colourful books with pictures in, great.

But when I read to her

1) If I read her a picture book with her sitting on my knee sort of thing, she is desperate to turn the pages before I get to the end of the page. Even if its just 4 lines of text.

2) Should I be pointing at the words (I try) as I say them, or isn't this helpful. I try when I get to the end to point out other things in the pictures, and play the 'can you point at the owl' type thing.

3) I (and she) often get exasperated after a book of this, and then read to her from another book, like a proper story book (we're reading prince Caspian. It isn't age appropriate, and its being heavily edited by me as we go, and all the dwarfs come out with west-country-accents).

Am I doing this right? She's only little (21 months).

  • 1
    Sounds about normal to me!
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 17:07
  • 1
    Related: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/6055/…
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 17:46
  • Also, this one is about an older child, but has some useful information about how kids learn to read: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/6320/…
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 17:49
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    Perfectly normal and I wouldn't worry to much about reading the entire page. Just understanding which way the book goes and that you start at the front and move toward the back is GREAT for now. Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 22:19
  • I find that narrating while pointing at the pictures on the page, instead of reading every word gets me through the pages as quick as my toddler prefers, and gets the story across too. You can always shorten or lengthen your narrative according to their mood, minutes remaining to bed time, etc.
    – learner101
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 6:00

4 Answers 4


First off, you need to relax. Honestly, you're worrying far too much.

You've accomplished your first task, which is to get her interested in books. It's now just a case of building up her familiarity with the concept of "squiggles = sounds".

I would definitely point at the words as you read them to emphasise that "This squiggle means this object". It'll not be a quick process but it will work in the end.

For now, if she's not interested in the stories (and I'm not surprised, given her age) focus on simple picture books, where you can look at things one page at a time. I've found that picture books that have lots of images on a single page, such as:


.. were very helpful. There's a lot to look at and talk about but if the child wants to skip backwards and forwards, they can.

Don't panic! :)

  • Thanks! I think sometimes its hard to tell because shes doesn't engage back. Got to just keep up reading now.
    – mchicago
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 17:11

That's not dissimilar to my now 30 month old when he was around 18 months. I definitely recommend picture-only books for that age almost exclusively; ie, the books that have a page with all the different fruits, and the next page is the different colors, the next page is different clothing items, etc. That would tend to catch his interest, because I could turn it into a 'find' game (ie, "Where's the banana?" "I see a yellow fruit" etc.)

The interaction with you, really, is what she craves at this age; hence whatever you can do to make it more interactive will keep her attention longer. Right now, turning the page very interactive, so that's what she enjoys.

In terms of longer story reading, I made the same mistake. I tried to read a chapter book to him around a year old or so. That didn't work at all, for numerous reasons - but at the end of the day, the main reason is that kids can't process complex narratives at that age. Their minds are still forming and they're still learning not only how to imagine, but learning social concepts that are automatic to us and are built into books. So I guess, if it's working for you, keep doing it (she probably enjoys hearing your voice and getting your attention), but I wouldn't worry about it for a year or two if not; like me, you undoubtedly have fond memories of your mother/father reading to you as a kid - but I doubt it was at 2 years old.

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    Thanks. I realise full well she dosnt understand the logner books because sometimes I end up skipping chapters. ive also been known to read the car manual, but my fear was I have been swapping to reading that rather then trying to push on with picture books.
    – mchicago
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 17:12
  • One of my favorite go-tos when I'm on the road is those used car sales magazines they give away at train stations and the like. My son loves them - like huge picture books!
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 22:34

She's obviously interested enough in the picture books to want to know what happens next. Don't point at the words (she's too young to understand what those squiggly marks are), but talk to her about the pictures as you read. Make it fun - don't necessarily stick to the text!

Definitely don't try to read anything with no pictures at this stage. When she's old enough to be interested in the story rather than just the pictures, you can start reading longer books.

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    He should point at the words. A 21-month-old is plenty old enough to be taught that squiggly marks carry meaning. She's old enough to be recognizing letters even.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 17:45
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    Yes, of course she knows they carry meaning. My point (ha!) is that she's far more interested in the pictures, so you should point to those as you read the words. My 3-year-old knows about letters but would be hard-pressed to recognise anything but O. Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 8:40
  • 1
    After this question and answers, I've kind of changed slightly from pointing at the words to pointing at the animals / people in the pictures. If I don't point at all, she tries turning the pages, whereas if I (and if I ask her to point), she engages a bit more with the page we're on before moving onto the next. She's good at finding the owl (invariably, there is an owl).
    – mchicago
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 9:49

Why don't you try ABC books or charts. Since shes good with pictures she might like to say 'A for Apple', 'B for ..' gradually getting to the end of the page. Shes probably not interested in the words because she cant make anything of them yet. They don't make sense to her but the pictures do hence her interest lies there. Also identifying the letters correctly might get her a head start on reading.

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