Book reading is one of the most important investments that parents make in their children’s literacy development. This study investigated risk factors associated with the absence of book reading at ages 2, 4 and 6 years. A holistic view of the multiple ecologies of child development guided the study across a sample of approximately 4000 children from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Eight potential risk factors for the absence of book reading were examined in a multivariate logistic regression analysis and in a cumulative risk approach. The magnitude of association between individual risk factors and the absence of book reading varied at different ages. However, across all ages, there was a consistent association between multiple risk exposures and the absence of book reading. The results suggest that the absence of book reading may serve as a red flag for multiple disadvantages. For this reason, parent–child book reading interventions alone are unlikely to meet the needs of children and families for whom the absence of book reading is an outcome of psychosocial risk factors.