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Mama Mgeni : How We Read Aloud to our Kids

When I was pregnant with my first child, we received a stack of board books as gifts from friends and family. To this day, they are some of my most cherished baby gifts! We’ve been reading aloud to our kids since they day they were born.

Reading aloud is one of the most important activities parents can do with their children to encourage language development, and to foster an enduring love of reading. So many parents wonder how to incorporate reading into their family’s daily routine. Here’s how it worked for us!


When we first came home with our baby, I read to her for 10 minutes or so each day. Even if she was breastfeeding, or staring off across the room, I would quietly read anyway – just a quick book or two. I think this early start built a strong foundation for making reading a habit as she got older!


Over the months, we increased the amount of reading we did each day. As she settled into a stable daily routine of having two naps and a fairly regular bedtime, we started to read to her every time she went to sleep. Reading became part of a very well-defined bedtime routine. At each nap time and at bedtime, we would get our baby dressed for bed, sit down in a comfy chair, and read three short books. This way, our daughter began to expect her books when she was ready to sleep, and she knew that when we read, it meant that sleep time was near.


As our daughter got older, and her attention span grew, we were able to transition from board books to slightly longer books with more complex stories. We continued to make reading part of every nap and bedtime, and our children really look forward to reading together. Story time is a wonderful opportunity to be close with our kids! Even after a tough day, reading to our children always seems to calm them down. It also calms us down, which is so great when we’re frazzled and tense.

What to read?

Our home library of children’s books has really grown over the years, from that first little pile of board books, to a big bookcase full of picture books! Here are some of our favorites, all available locally:

For You Are a Kenyan Child – Kelly Cunnane (available at Bookstop Ltd, Yaya Centre)

This is a lovely story about a Kalenjin boy who lives in a village upcountry. The story follows him through his typical day: herding his grandfather’s cows, eating chapati from a local vendor, drinking homemade yoghurt with his grandmother, playing football with a makeshift ball in the red African dust…  The illustrations are so beautiful, and we just love the story.

The Lion and the Mouse – Jerry Pinkney (available at Text Book Centre)

This spectacularly illustrated adaptation of Aesop’s famous fable about acts of kindness has always been a favorite in our house. There are no words in this book – it is up to parents to narrate the story based on the powerful illustrations. We love it, because the tale changes a bit each time we “read” it!

Into the Bush – Sandra Arensen (Available through Old Africa magazine, contact them via editorial [at]

Into the Bush is a story is about a young girl named Lilee and her safari adventures with her family. The tale is evocative – you can almost hear the sound of the hyenas crunching on bones, or the snap of the crocodile’s jaws. What really strikes me most about this book is the amazing artwork. Sandra Arensen does her own illustrations using watercolors, and the effect brings to mind spectacular vibrantly colored stained glass windows.  This book is in regular rotation in our house!

How often do you read to your kids? Do they enjoy story time? What are your favorite reads? Comment below to share your reading tips.

Photo credits: Tara Wambugu and Natasha Sweeney Photography Read more from Tara Wambugu on her blog.

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