Need Help - My Boys Love Books Too Much!

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photo by maureen_sill
I have a recent problem which is interfering with reading to my twin boys age 28 months. 

They love when I read to them, and we read every night before bed (I work full time so can't read during the day.)  

Lately they have reached that age of, "I read it myself!!" and they grab the book out of my hands. Then the other one wants a book, and says the same thing. So we often end up with the two of them each "reading" a book while I read a 3rd book to them.

If I figure they're busy looking at their own books, and stop reading my book, though, they'll protest. So I keep reading, seemingly to nobody. But I'm not sure what they're getting out of it when they seem to not be paying any attention. Sometimes I will look down at one of the books one boy is reading and try to read it upside down to him while he looks at it. So story time is getting to be kind of a struggle, and I'm wondering what I should do.

Sometimes, after looking at a book on their own for a while, they seem to calm down and listen to the book I'm reading. And I am reading books they love and request, so it's not like I'm trying to read some book they don't like. They're not really at the age of being able to follow too much of a story yet, so it's not like I can start reading a story that will capture their interest. They just want to physically hold and look at the books themselves.

Do you think it's just an age thing and they'll get better as they get older and develop more of an attention span? I don't want story time to be a struggle, with me grabbing books out of their hands so I can read to them.

Any suggestions?

Thanks, Judy


Hi Judy,

Thanks for your great letter!

I can see why it feels like a problem as it does clearly interfere with your reading, but on the other hand you are doing the right thing by continuing to read aloud and keeping your "cool".
photo by David Buxton

Twins have a way of mimicking each others behavior, so what can be a mere hindrance with one child can turn into a small problem with
twins. The more they see that it "gets to you", the more they will have fun repeating that behavior.

In fact, the mimicking (and gentle rivalry) that develops between twins also helps to speed up their development, so we parents of twins
cannot really complain much.

"I read it myself!" is, of course, an attempt to emulate your own behavior and reading - and that part can only be applauded. In fact, its great that they love books so much!

With my twins, the only thing that I was ever afraid of - concerning books - is indifference.

Your situation is on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Indifference or rejection of books is the only thing that should really concern a parent, the rest is just a different manifestation of interest for books.

We parents, especially when we don't have too much time on our hands, wish to make the most of our time set aside for reading aloud. Yet, sometimes it is not possible.

For kids it is also a time for bonding, playing around, monkeying around.

Phases come and go.

My twins - when we were learning letters - with one flash card that I brought them
to bed every night, they used to take the cards and hold them close to their chests (hiding the letter from me and each other), giggling like crazy.
photo by Keven Law

It lasted for 4 months. Nothing I could do would change that behavior. Every night the same. No one saw the letters, but the fact that it got to me ... made them enjoy it even more.

Nowadays - I miss it. :-) Whenever they hold up a card with a letter, I remember those great evenings when they had fun by doing what I didn't expect.

I guess your boys are enjoying some of that too.

You mention they are "reading" a book each and you are reading a third one aloud. Great.

It is excellent that they protest if you stop reading. My children listen to me reading aloud - often even without looking. Listening, not looking is the really important part.

As for specific advice, what I would try to do - is to switch a word or two from time to time while reading their favorite books, to check if they are listening. Where the book says "doll", you can read aloud "flying pink elephant" .. and listen to their reactions. Do they hear the switch?

If no, point "the mistake" you made ("silly Mama!") out to them, or continue inventing something more fantastic - they will notice and slowly their attention will be drawn back to the words coming out of your mouth. They will want to be the first one to notice your mistakes. It will be a new "game" too.

Another tactic that you can use is to split read aloud time into two parts. Their reading and your reading. In the first part you bring them books for them to read and then tell your boys that when they finish they can call you to start reading. Or - you can sit in the room waiting for them to finish - and start reading aloud after 15 minutes.

As you said: "Sometimes, after looking at a book on their own for a while, they seem to calm down and listen to the book I'm reading."

Kids do need the practice of leafing through books and copying the reading behavior of their parents, so their interest and handling of books is very healthy and useful for literacy development.

Finally, I am sure that "it is an age thing" and they will indeed stop taking books out of your hand when you start reading aloud.

Let me finish with a story... last night we finished reading a picture book (King Hugo's Huge Ego) and my 4-year old daughter yawned and said "Dad, I'm sleepy .. I can't listen any more".

I said - OK, I will stop reading.

And as I put the books back on the shelf next to her bed, she sat up and smiled a cheeky smile saying:

"Well, can I now take the books to look at the pictures?" I realized the yawn was fake, just to get rid of me.

She continued "reading" for half an hour, before packing the books back on the shelf. My cheeky little monkey ;-)

In one sentence, my recommendation:

Enjoy your book loving boys - they are the best!

Read Aloud Dad

Dear R.A.D.,

Thanks so much for the great response! That is very helpful.   

Also, what do you think of Leapfrog's "Tag Reader" system. I bought this for my boys when they were 18mo, but they were too young to get the hang of it.  I put it away and haven't gotten it out since. I've had assurances from teachers that they will encourage reading, but now I'm suspicious. Of course, the special books are expensive. And it seems it just does the work that a parent would do, it reads it, then it also makes comments about other pictures on the page. Again,the same thing I would do.  It is almost brand new, but I'm thinking of getting rid of it. It seems like a "gateway" to video games rather than reading. 



Hi Judy,

I'm really happy that you found my response useful! 

As regards the Leapfrog Tag Reader system - we have it! I'm planning to do a special review of it one day. 

In short, I am afraid of gateways to games as well, so I had a big thought about this before I purchased it. We don't use any other electronic devices yet. Nor do we have e-readers for the kids or for us (parents) yet. What is more, the TV is almost never on in the house.

The key thing that I like about Tag Readers is the fact that kids are holding a book. 

Plus, they are listening to different voices and accents. And they are exploring words, sentences, language structure, letters. They are exposed to language. Written language and oral language at the same time. And the links between the two. All key elements of literacy. 

And kids are allowed some independence from adults (they are not 100% dependent on us for "reading"). It helps with their self-esteem, as they can finally "read" something to us from a book. The desire for independence is growing. These days, they want to show off new things that they find in the books. They want to impress us too! Plus they enjoy the comprehension "games" and activities. 

Do I recommend it from my experience? 

Yes. So much so, that we have most of the special Leapfrog Tag books. They are real hardcover books that have been printed with a special ink/technique that allows the Tag Reader to work. 

What do my kids say? They LOVE it. We can't go on holiday without the Tag Reader. Believe it or not.

Mind you - the Tag Reader really took off in our house only after they were 3.5 years old, not earlier. My daughter loved it first, my boy was pretty cool about it. He got excited about the Tag Reader, close to his 4th birthday. Now they are both crazy about it. 

Before, they did not really connect. Now, they are inseparable. 

Don't forget that their days can often "boring", it's always great if they have a book in their lap. 

Warm regards

Read Aloud Dad

PS: Note the Leapfrog Tag system still requires parent involvement in the loading of audio files to the "tag pen" via computer, so that it works properly with the individual books. A 32 MB pen can hold up to a dozen files (for a dozen Tag books). If you have more books than that, you can always change the files/books you have on your Tag with the help of your computer. 


  1. I used to have my daughter follow along sitting either beside me or crawling into my lap we would red the book as I touch each word as I said them.I'd also ask her questions about what we were reading sometimes that gets there attention more. 

  2. You gave Judy some good advice. My advice to her would be: Yes, it is a phase; annoying as all get out, but it will likely pass, especially if you calmly introduce a little order to the chaos. In my house, when my older two were toddlers (they're only 18 months apart) and wanting to do the same things at the same time, the good old kitchen timer was king. In your case, I'd suggest you bring the kitchen timer with you and tell your boys, when they start "reading aloud" at the same time, that you're going to play a new game. Explain that you're going to set the timer for two minutes and So-and-so will "read aloud" until the timer goes off, and then it will be Such-and-such's turn. And tell them that after 5 (just an example-you can play it by ear) turns each, it will be Mommy's turn to read a story to them.

  3. Hi Sheilagh,

    Great point you mention there! It is great to have a kid in the lap during a read-aloud. Makes it a special experience indeed!

    I knew that other moms and dads would have some special tips to share too - hope your comment invites other tips as well.

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

    Read Aloud Dad

    Re: @060389b7806934e6f4562d6e03492f6f 

  4. Hi Megan,

    Ahhh.. yes, the good old kitchen timer! Thinking about it, I don't even know why they bother naming it a "kitchen timer", as it has become a great parenting prop as well!

    Thanks so much for this sharing this idea! 

    Taking turns - the first lesson of sharing!

    Read Aloud Dad

    RE: @645f9ca216c8a34c4a371423e32795e0 

  5. There are a few great graphic novels for young kids that would be great for them to "read" by themselves. I really like Hocus Pocus by Sylvie Desrosiers.

    Other options would be wordless picture books. Imagination Soup has a great post on that:

    Now you get the best of both worlds!

  6. My son is  age 2 1/2 also.  He sometimes wants to hold books or read books by himself at storytime.  We have started doing some of our 'storytimes' without books.  I remember when I was little hearing my mother tell me stories about princesses and horses, dragons and heroes, good little girls and brave schoolchildren all from the top of her head.  (Those were some of my favorite and most remembered stories!) 

    Making up our own stories and using our imagination in a different way has been quite a treat.  I discovered that my son already has the language of books and stories.  He can tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  He can repeat patterns from other books.  He also shows a remarkable vocabulary for storytelling.  I was proud and delighted to discover this, and you might be too, if you try forgoing books at storytime, sometimes.

    Remember that as much as we want children to love, love, love books, storytime is also about quality time, sharing a close bond, developing vocabulary, strengthening attention spans, and soothing a child with their parent's voice.  All of these things can be accomplished via storytime without books.  I would suggest retelling favorite books, including your children as characters, and lots of cuddles and laughter too.

  7. Great advice as usual from PragmaticMom!

    Indeed, graphic novels and wordless books are fantastic choices for youngsters who are just striking up "a beautiful friendship" with books. 

    The list of graphic novels on PragmaticMom's website is fantastic (as are all her other Top 10/100/Best lists!). By the way, @2f04fd44b02f5004c4fadc411b33b1aa I have to salute you for your fantastic work on your blog(s) - there is always great literacy-related news coming into my Inbox daily! And that is something special!

    Imagination Soup has an equally interesting flow of great literacy- and education-related news, so make sure you check it out as well. 

    I love both websites!

    Thanks so much for you valuable contribution PragmaticMom!

    Read Aloud Dad