Goodnight-Moon-PINIts 8pm (or 9 or 10pm…) and your child wants the same book that you’ve read for the last 100 nights. Children love repetition (it does wonders for your brain), but it can be challenging to make each reading fresh and new.

At Childsplay, we use the following tips to help bring books to life. Each of these ideas is simple to do and helps strengthen your child’s pre-literacy skills. Try one a night:

Change your voice to match the personality of one of the characters in your book.

Squawk like a hawk or a hip hippo or a sheepish sheep. It helps us to think of the following when creating a character voice: Does the character a high or low voice? Do they talk quickly or slowly? Do they have a catch phrase? A verbal habit? Try to make your character distinctive! Your child will also love to create a voice – and will use it long after storytime ends.

Use your volume knob

ROAR (or whimper). Changing the volume of your voice as you narrate a story can make a reading much more dramatic. If you aren’t sure when to speak loudly or softly, quickly or slowly, take a look at the font in your book. You’d be amazed at how many clues the authors have given you through font changes (size, placement, etc.).

Ask questions of your child as you read

Who? What? Why? Think about interesting questions to ask beyond naming colors and counting. For example, ask how a character might be feeling, or why a character did something. Ask what might happen next…or what your child would do if faced with a similar problem. Try to ask questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer.

Learn new words together

Clap it. Define it. Act it. These are three easy and essential steps in introducing new vocabulary found in books. First, clap out the syllables in the word. Next define it, placing the word in context of what your child already knows. Finally, act it out! If it is an action word, get up and do the movement. If it is an object, try pantomiming how you would hold or use the object (think about size, weight, delicacy, temperature, etc.). If it is an emotion, show it through your face and posture. Physicalizing words helps everyone to understand and remember their meaning.


It is sooo tempting to breeze through a book…or to be led through it very quickly by your child (who, after all, already knows the words!). Pick one or two pages each night to pause and focus on questions, vocabulary, or just enjoyment of the pictures and characters.


Reflect on the book together – after you’ve finished reading, go back to the new vocabulary you learned and think of other words that mean the same thing. Talk about situations in the book – ask what your child would have done and share what you would do in a similar situation. Try out that character voice one more time as you turn out the lights – send them to sleep with a smile!

If you want to flex your skills or learn more, find a local family drama or literacy class. Childsplay offers them in the Phoenix metro area and more information can be found at: or at You can also check in with the Family Resource Center of your local school district.

Jenny Millinger and Korbi Adams work for Childsplay, Arizona’s professional theatre for young audiences and families, where they work with classroom teachers and parents to integrate drama into everyday learning.