How to Read Aloud to a Child That Won’t Sit Still

by Janssen Bradshaw

Photo credit: Cultura/heshphoto, Cultura Collection / Getty Images

For some children, sitting quietly while listening to a book is more tedious than fun. If your child struggles to pay attention or sit still while you’re reading together, here are some tips that may help:

1. Pick interactive books. Whether it’s searching for something on each page, like with an I Spy book, or touching parts of the picture, like with Press Here, a book that actively draws a reader in can help keep them engaged during storytime.

2. Let them do something with their hands. Pass out the crayons or play dough or give them a puzzle to do while you read aloud to them. If they can keep their hands busy and their attention focused on a task, they may be more willing to listen to the story.

3. Try different times of day. Some times of day work better for certain children. The afternoon, when they are wound up and ready to play, may not be the best. Try bedtime when they’re anxious to stay up a little longer, or at mealtime while they eat, or first thing in the morning snuggled up together in the grown-up bed.

4. Give them an overview of the story first. Some children struggle with books because they have a hard time following the plot. Before you start reading, explain to them what they can expect from the story and few things they may want to look for either in the storyline or the illustrations.

5. Don’t push too hard. Some children just need to mature a little before they are ready to embrace reading. Don’t turn them off to it by making it a consistently miserable experience. Give them some space, try again frequently, and model a love of reading for them.