First, I start reading to my children long before they can escape (within days of birth). The earlier you start reading to your children, the more likely it is to seem like a regular daily activity like eating or bathing.
Be animated! Be silly! Make sound effects:
My husband gasping while reading “Two beetles gasped and ran away” from Miss Spider’s Tea Party: The Counting Book.
Alternate reading with an action song. When my son is wiggly, we follow Miss Spider’s Tea Party: The Counting Book with the Itsy Bitsy Spider, then read The Very Busy Spider and follow it up with several rounds of Old McDonald’s Farm.
Engage them. Ask them to point to pictures. Being willing to stop and discuss a picture or concept they find interesting:
My husband pauses to let my son count the tea cups. BTW, real men read stories about tea parties to their sons. :D
If they don’t want to sit on your lap, don’t make them. Read like the reading lady: Turn the book outward and let your child move about the room while you read. They will look up occasionally to see a picture and they will hear and retain much more than you think possible. Last week my son said, “You keep reading. I will be back; I am going to climb under the bed”.
Take advantage of the times when you have a captive audience. Read during meal times. Have an older sibling read to your toddler while he is strapped in the car seat.
Let them act out a book while you read a book like Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed or Ten in the Bed.
Children are more likely to want to hear a story that they were involved in choosing. Let them pick out a book at the library or thrift shop.
Give them a choice between reading and something you know they don’t want to do. I sometimes ask my toddler, “would you like to read a book or clean your room?'” Let them bamboozle you into reading “one more book” before bedtime. Once they are “reading”, let them sneak a little extra reading time before they fall asleep. Nothing is more enticing than a forbidden activity!
I realize the ideas in the last paragraph are somewhat controversial. Some people may view them as deceptive or encouraging deception. You did read the title of this blog, right? Covert Teaching sometimes requires subversive methods.
How do you read to your wiggly children?
My second oldest wiggle worm reading to my youngest wiggle worm.
Disclosure: I have linked the books to amazon, where I am an affiliate, so you can read a description if you wish. However, I encourage you to check these books out at the library.
Edited to change wriggle to wiggle after realizing that not everybody has teenagers who like to imitate Gollum in their household.