In what way does reading story books to babies help them (besides falling sleep), and at what age should it be started?


How to motivate yourself to read stories to a kid whom you know cannot understand and respond accordingly?

The kid is 15 months old.
The kid is hyperactive - always keeps on running around, picking things and throwing them down, and constantly babbling.

The problem is that I have bought story books with lots of text and no pictures for her. Intension is to let her "hear" the story and thus get her language improved.

The best way to get rid of the child is to start talking to her or start telling her stories. The moment I start, she turns away and starts minding her own business. She is not least interested in hearing when I talk about my day at office etc.

Then I bought big story books with big pictures and little text. The kid was definitely interested - in grabbing the book and tearing it off.

How to deal with the toddler who is not least interested in listening to the stories I read or listening to my talks?

  • 3
    It sounds like you're truly trying to do your best by your daughter. She is clearly not ready for books without pictures (don't do this for her speech). Where is she in birth order? Sep 24, 2014 at 6:53
  • She is the first and the last child. Sep 24, 2014 at 7:17

3 Answers 3


Fifteen months is early even for 100% picture books. It's far too early for understanding a storyline - it's too early for the level of imagination capable of understanding that there could be such a thing as a story.

Most fifteen month olds aren't interested in books except as a very short and quick interaction with daddy/mommy. They probably aren't capable of saying words on the page yet - that's possible, but most do that closer to 18-20 months. My eighteen month old just started going through his book phase, and my older son did the same at that age. But even then, it takes months to learn to read the book in order and not just flip around.

They haven't even really learned to identify pictures on the page with real objects yet, after all. It's not much before fifteen months that they learn that the baby in the mirror is themselves, after all; how should one expect them to learn a picture of a car is a real car? Hence the lack of interest in even picture books - they're just not 'real' to them until they hit that stage of development, usually around 18 months.

At fifteen months I'd be happy with just getting comfortable with sitting on my lap and holding a book, and anything beyond that is a bonus. It sounds like you're really focusing on education, which is good, but fifteen months isn't the time for this sort of education. Social interactions and gross motor skills are mostly what's needed at this point; she will pick up language just from your talking to her.

Finally, I recommend you pay attention to your child's wants and tendencies more. Rather than having some idea and asking why she won't do something, see what she does like and does do, and do that. Responsive parenting is key, especially in the first few years; when I stopped pushing an agenda with my older son and started rolling with what he enjoyed, my life got a lot easier, and it's worked very well with my younger child. I'm still making sure he has lots of opportunities to learn - but I'm going to the science and industry museum instead of the aquarium, because that's what he enjoys.

  • 1
    I agree with all your points except the "identification" paragraph. I think that's a slight underestimate; my daughter was identifying animals on the page earlier than 15 months. I think identification of self is actually a later developmental stage than identification of images as representations of things. Your final paragraph is great advice.
    – deworde
    Sep 24, 2014 at 15:34
  • Both my children were listening to stories being read from picture books at 15 months. The elder one also had a single picture book which she liked to read to herself (it had a picture of a cat on each page) and the younger would often sit and look at many different books by himself. Based on anecdotes, lots of other children (but not all) were interested in books at this age.
    – jwg
    May 20, 2015 at 7:13
  • @jwg Every child is different, but I've never found a child at 15 months who was comfortable having read to him/her an actual story (ie, something with plot) of any length and sitting through it for more than a few pages. Certainly some children will be happy no matter what you do giving them attention, but most children at that age are much happier to flip pages and just see things rather than actually read from beginning to end. We get a lot of questions here like "Why won't my toddler let me read? She just flips the pages". Very common at this age.
    – Joe
    May 20, 2015 at 13:57
  • But you said 'Fifteen months is too early even for 100% picture books'. That's much more extreme than what you said in your comment.
    – jwg
    May 21, 2015 at 10:08

A 15 month old not only cannot read, but doesn't yet know that those black marks on the paper are words, or that what you are saying is somehow controlled by what is on the paper. This is something they need to learn, and they learn it in modern society through picture-only, no-text books. These are typically heavy cardboard so the toddler doesn't wreck them on first touch.

You open the book, show a picture of something the toddler knows (a toy, a car, whatever) and say its name, usually in a very excited or demonstrative tone. You let the toddler take the book and turn to another page. You say what is on that page. It can take a long time for the toddler to understand this super abstract concept - see a representation of something I know, say the name of the thing - and this stage, as you're seeing, really can't be skipped. When the toddler says what's on the page (even if they're just copying what you said 2 seconds ago) you get all excited and say "yes, cat! It's a cat! Good! Cat!" and then turn the page or encourage them to turn the page. You might get less than a minute at a time before the toddler throws it or just gets up and runs off, which is cool, it will last longer as it becomes more predictable (and interesting on a different level) for the toddler.

You can continue to tell stories, sing songs and so on, but you won't get to "let's sit down together so I can read you a story" stage by starting there. You have to teach the toddler what a book is and how it works. This will take patience, but try to stay positive. Don't say "a story is a great way to get rid of this kid" - instead, try "I need to find something simpler to share so that the kid will care" - no 15 month old ever has wanted to hear about your day at the office. But "oooh! ice cream!" (or whatever you know excites the toddler in real life) while pointing at a picture of it might be a little more riveting.


This sounds like pretty normal 15 month old "GOOD LORD I CAN MOVE MYSELF THIS IS AWESOME", but if it's truly looking out of control, you might want to consider talking to your paediatrician, just as a check. I think we do have a few questions on hyperactivity on the site.

As far as the reading goes, children generally want to mimic their parents. My daughter's seen me and her mother read, so she wants to read. If reading is only a thing you can or want to do with her, make it a special thing. One thing to try is to pick your moments. Read when she's tired and looking to settle.

I'd definitely recommend the proper "baby board books" (aka "every page is a cardboard slab") books while she's still in the "crush kill destroy" phase that all our precious little angels go through, if nothing else because books are expensive items. Also, tape. Few children's books are so damaged that clear tape can't reassemble them. We do have another question regarding exactly this issue, but it sounds like your daughter's still at the "meh, broken, NEXT" stage. I would keep the books around though, my daughter is now aware she broke some of her books when she was little, and is more careful as a result.

Beyond that, make sure the books are short, and try and find ones that have pictures of the stuff your child is already interested in. My daughter's dinosaur obsession has allowed us our choice of reading material, and she'll happily sit for ages if we're allowing her to roar.

  • 1
    I would talk to the pediatrician before any sort of therapist; first time parents are unlikely to have a good measuring stick for determining 'truly out of control'.
    – Joe
    Sep 24, 2014 at 14:41
  • @Joe: Agreed, fixed. Getting an outside opinion was the key point, for exactly the reason you state, but I couldn't think of the correct person to go to (in the UK you'd go to your local GP).
    – deworde
    Sep 24, 2014 at 15:31
  • 4
    agree with this, my 15 month old has just started enjoying very simple books with simple pictures of peas, cars, flowers, other babies, teddies - in short things he sees day to day. The whole idea is that he can now point and I can tell him what it is, or I point and tell. For language development, just talk, talk, talk while the kid is running around - tell everything you do while cooking for instance. This works better than sitting still for a 'story' IMHO.
    – Ida
    Sep 24, 2014 at 16:36

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