Instilling a love of reading in our children is the first step in making reading a family tradition. Reading aloud to your toddler is a wonderful way to bond with them, encourage their language development, and open up a whole new world of possibilities and imagination. However, it isn't always simple to pique your kid's interest in storytime or keep their attention for the entire session.
So, we checked out experts for their tips on how to read with toddlers. With these practical strategies, you’ll be able to set your tyke up for success when it comes to learning through books. Plus we’ll also share some great book recommendations that both grownups and kiddos can enjoy together.
Benefits of Reading to Toddlers
Reading is an important part of a child’s development, no matter how young they are. Reading to your toddler helps them with their language development and comprehension, increases their chances of succeeding in school, and even gives you and your little one an opportunity for bonding through quality time and storytelling.
Plus, it's never too early to introduce your toddler to books! Research shows that reading to babies as young as six months old can help them learn new words, understand basic grammar rules, build reading confidence, and boost overall literacy skills.
Tips for Engaging Your Toddler in Reading
Reading with your toddler can be a fun and rewarding experience, but you want to make sure you're getting the most out of it. To help ensure that your little one is engaged and learning while reading, here are some tips:
- Read books that are appropriate for their age. Younger toddlers may need something they can relate to, while older toddlers may like more complex stories with more advanced language.
- Interact with your toddler while reading. Ask them questions throughout the story and encourage them to point out objects or colors—whatever they can notice!
- Select books that are familiar. Toddlers tend to learn best when presented with familiar stories that are easy for them to remember.
- Read slowly. Give your toddler plenty of time to focus on the illustrations or words so they can fully experience what is happening in the book.
- Make it fun. Use funny voices or gestures when reading to keep your toddler’s attention and help build a connection between the two of you.
- Encourage them to participate. Letting them turn pages or engage in a game of “Find what’s different” will make them more involved in the process and increase their interest level as they learn new words and concepts each time they open the book.
- Go at their pace. If your toddler is ready to move on, don’t force them; encourage them by saying something like “Let’s find another book!”
- Talk about what you read. Ask questions after each story, use descriptive language when discussing characters and events, and encourage
When selecting books for your toddler, look for those with vivid illustrations and easy-to-follow stories. It's also important to choose books that challenge your child's age level without overwhelming them. You can start by picking books with fewer words per page; then gradually increase the number of words on each page as they get older. Additionally, make sure the topic resonates with your toddler as this will make them more excited about story time.
What Types of Books Are Recommended for Toddlers?
One of the best things you can do to help your little one learn to read is choose the right books. So, what types of books are recommended for toddlers? Here are some tips from reading experts on what to look for:
Rhyming books help kids learn the sounds that each letter makes and the cadence of language. Research has even shown that in babies as young as nine months old, rhyming stories are more engaging than those without rhyme. It helps them start to recognize patterns and eventually become readers who are able to identify larger patterns!
The best books for toddlers feature simple narratives with illustrations that help explain events in a story or reinforce simple words that may appear in a sentence. Look for books with minimal text, sometimes only one or two sentences per page, that focus on a single topic or moral lesson.
Toddlers learn best when they can relate to the story, especially if it involves familiar things like animals, food, colors, shapes etc. Reading about something they’ve experienced helps them better understand the narrative, making it easier for them to follow along and get involved with what’s happening in the book.
How to Choose a Suitable Book for Your Toddler
You might wonder how to choose a book that's suitable for you and your toddler. Thankfully, there are some tips from reading experts that you can follow:
Stick to simple stories
Keep it simple. Your toddler may not yet understand complex stories with multiple characters and complex plotlines. Experts suggest choosing stories with only one or two characters and a straightforward plot line, so your toddler can easily follow the story and have time to ask questions.
Pick books with illustrations
Illustrations are important! Pictures in books help your toddler better comprehend the story and use their imagination to make up the rest. Look for books with bright, colorful pictures that draw your toddler’s attention, like drawings of animals or family scenes.
Go for high-quality materials
Choose hardcover books made from good-quality paper, preferably those printed with non-toxic ink. They will last longer than paperback books, so you won’t need to buy new ones all the time!
Last but not least, pick books about topics that interest your toddler. Does he love cars? Try getting a book about cars! Is she obsessed with dogs? Look for books about pets! That way, you know your child will want to read the book over and over again.
Tips to Make Reading Sessions More Fun and Engaging
Reading to your toddler is about more than just passing time. It's about making sure your little one experiences the joy of books, is exposed to language and increases their communication skills. Here are some tips to make sure your toddler enjoys reading with you:
Use voices and facial expressions
Babies and toddlers learn through observation, and they will take cues from you as you read. Be sure to use lots of facial expressions and different tones of voice as you read. Don't forget to make the experience interactive by asking questions and pointing out the pictures in each book.
Repetition is key
As much as we want our children to move on to new books all the time, it's important to recognize that repetition is key when it comes to helping them learn. Allowing your children to revisit their favorite books repeatedly will help them become more familiar with stories, characters, and language.
Personalize the experience
Choose stories that have themes or characters that your toddler can relate with better or associate with their own life experiences. Additionally, allow them to pick out the books for storytime or encourage them to point out elements in each story that speak directly to them!
7 Great Books for Reading to Toddlers
Books are one of the best ways to engage with your toddler. Not only do they help build their reading skills, but they also open up a world of imagination and illuminate important life lessons. But what books should you read?
Here are 7 highly recommended books for toddlers:
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – Goodnight Moon was first published in 1947, and since then, it has become a classic bedtime tale for generations of readers. Parents and literary critics alike have praised its simplicity, use of repetitive wordplay, and ability to put children to sleep.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – Librarians and experts in children's literature attribute the book's lasting popularity to the story's skillful integration of educational principles, the book's stunning visual style, and the ageless nature of both the book's aesthetic and its content.
- Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – Childhood memories, time spent in Brooklyn, and the relationship between Maurice and his parents all served as inspiration for this novel. He set out to express himself through his writing by drawing upon his personal experiences and the individuals he knew. This book is a favorite of President Obama and President Clinton.
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss – To help youngsters learn to read, Dr. Seuss wrote this book, which went on to become so popular that Seuss was able to devote his life to writing for young readers. "Dr. Seuss" became famous all over the world because of the Cat.
- We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury – this interactive tale shows the importance of resilience and determination during challenging times. More than 30 years after its first release, this classic book is still a favorite among readers all over the world.
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr & Eric Carle – this engaging book helps teach toddlers colors and animals while they sing along with the repeated text throughout the story. It aids in the introduction of primary colors to young children and entices non-readers to "read" along with the straightforward narrative.
- Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr & Eric Carle – This colorful board book is a great follow-up to "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" as it introduces young children to the fascinating world of sound.
Reading with toddlers isn't just about adding books to your home library; connecting with them and engaging them in their newfound knowledge is what matters the most. It doesn't have to be a hassle or a source of stress. In fact, a parent's enthusiasm can be contagious to both kids and adults.
With the right selection of books and activities, your child can look forward to reading time and eventually become an independent reader. Most importantly, make sure you find books your child enjoys and can identify with, ones that will help spark their imagination and take them on an adventure.