My little boy is 2½ now, and has enjoyed being read to at bedtime since he was small.

But lately he's started refusing to be read to at all. Instead he says "No, I want to read it" and takes the book. He generally turns a few pages, mumbles a little or tells me something he can see on the pictures, then gets a different book and does the same.

I know reading to your child is a good way to help them develop their language, and I wonder how much benefit he's actually getting from sitting and looking at the books himself.

On the other hand, I'd like to encourage him to enjoy reading, so he can do it for real when he's old enough.

What advice can anyone give me?

  • 10
    This is exactly how little kids learn to read. He's making the connection that something on that page allows you to know the story and he's trying to figure it out. He is learning a TON from looking at the pictures (beginning, middle, end for example!) Commented Nov 14, 2012 at 14:22

6 Answers 6


Your little guy will be back for more stories, don't worry, he's just exercising his independence a bit.

My son is 3 and adores books, although less so now than a year ago, and he likes to flip through books on his own and act like he's reading them. I encourage that wholeheartedly, even though he can't read he is interpreting the story himself, making his own story. He still asks me to read him books regularly, just less so. It's all part of him wanting independence, so a good thing.

I wouldn't worry about it, just don't fight it as he'll resent it and it could put him off. Get him alphabet books and start spelling things a bit. Teach him his ABCs. My mother taught me to read before the school did by having me read the ads on the #1 subway in NYC, so you don't need any special tools, just some material and a child's interest. Don't force it though, just let it happen.

  • 2
    As long as it was just the ads and not the graffiti :-)
    – Urbycoz
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 14:41
  • 1
    haha, the graffiti was completely illegible! Just as well.
    – GdD
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 14:53

Don't worry too much. He is demonstrating how much he likes to read by wanting to do it himself. You can help him by giving him some basic tools to start working it out on his own. This will make his time "reading" more productive as he learns to recognize the important parts of text.

  1. Show him where the words are on the page. Point to the words as you read them. It is not obvious to small children that words are groups of letters with spaces in between, so pointing to individual words and counting how many words are on a page are both useful techniques for helping children learn to decipher text.
  2. Point out the initial letters of important words and connect them to the initial sounds. "This word is cat. What's the first letter of this word? What sound does it make? That's the first sound we hear in the word cat."
  3. Have him pick out important words based on the initial sounds. "Let's listen to fox. What's the first sound you hear? What letter makes that sound? Can you find a word on this page that starts with that letter?" (make them easy at first, i.e., the only word that starts with F on the page)
  4. Have him use visual cues to identify words. "Let's see if we can figure out this word. It starts with the letter B. What animal do you see in the picture that starts with the letter B? A bird? Let's think. What sound does B make? Does bird start with that sound?"

I taught my son these basics when he was two (I am involved in early childhood literacy programs at work, so I took the techniques home with me). By the time he turned three, he could recognize or figure out a lot of nouns. We added verbs later, using similar visual cues ("What is the bird doing in this picture?") combined with initial sounds ("Does flying start with F?") He's four now and reads by himself when he wakes up in the morning. He often greets me with what he's figured out on his own.


I think the value being gained is the quiet one-on-one time. Whether you're reading him books, or he's reading to you, or you're just chatting probably doesn't matter.

When my 3-year old son is particularly difficult to get down sometimes I'll just snuggle in bed with him and tell him what I know about random things. Why people have pets. What do firemen do. Where did people come from. Where does wood/cloth/metal/etc. come from.

  • 1
    Ask your father.
    – Bryce
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 5:41
  • 1
    ..or ask your 5 year old... He/she knows!
    – awe
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 9:11

In addition to the comments made by this answerer I would like to add a little helpful (and possibly reassuring) information.

Many parents don't realize there is a lot more to learning to read than just phonics. BEFORE that step can happen kids have to know:

That stories begin at the front of the book and end at the back. That books have stories in them. Which way to hold the book. How to turn pages. That pictures are symbols that can represent parts of stories That letters are symbols representing sounds and that collections of letters represent words.

An additional language skill related to reading but not a part of learning to read (more a part of learning to comprehend) is learning how to re-tell stories.

Your son is actually showing you his learning! What he is doing is an early form of emergent reading and emergent Reading skills! YEAH!!!! This is good news.

In other words, encourage him to continue doing exactly what he is doing. In order to also incorporate him watching your example, you might try saying something like, "okay, but then can we take turns?" Listen to him "read" you a story, and then he gets to listen to you read a story. This will encourage the learning he is doing while also modeling "real" reading for him and give the two of you time to engage together on the matter even though he is feeling more independent about it at the moment.


This is a great step in learning to read - it really shows that you have been reading with him. Although the next step is for your child to begin reading to himself, don't underestimate the power of reading to your child. It is about more than just bonding with your child, which can be achieved in many ways. It is great to encourage this independence in your child and ask him to tell you the story but do not give up reading to him as well. There really is never a time that you should stop reading to your children. There are many studies that show the benefits of reading to your children - all of these studies show that the more you read with your children, the stronger readers they are. It is important to follow his lead at this point and interact with him with the books. One way would be to "read" together - read the words on the page to him and then ask him what he sees on the page so he can tell the story he sees as well as hearing the words. At this stage, also, make sure you are pointing to the words you are reading as you read them to help him begin to recognize where your words are coming from.


There are good suggestions in the other answers, but I think one other way you can encourage your son and still enjoy the time is to offer to take turns with him. This might satisfy his need for a little bit of independence, and at the same time you can help him understand what it is he's looking at. You could let him go first (set a number of pages, paragraphs, or pictures - some measure he can understand and anticipate) and then take your turn for the same interval, and so on. That way you both are enjoying your time together, without either of you getting frustrated.

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