Cuddling with your child to read a nighttime story is a well-honored childhood ritual. However, nighttime shouldn’t be the only time you read to your toddler. If you take the time to read to your toddler several times a day, you not only benefit from the extra time with your little one, but you will likely be placing her on the path to stronger academic success.
Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, states, “I think we’ve learned that early reading is more than just a nice thing to do with kids. It really does have a very important role in building brain networks that will serve children long-term as they transition from verbal to reading” (The New York Times).
Even if you have a rambunctious toddler who doesn’t like to sit still for a story, still take the time to read to him while he is playing. “There’s a good chance he’ll still be listening even if his eyes aren’t on the book” (What to Expect).
How to Engage Toddlers in Reading
If you’re lucky, you may have a toddler who loves to be read to. Two of my three children were this way. The other one, not so much.
If your toddler doesn’t like to be read to, try these strategies:
Watch Reading Rainbow. A child who doesn’t like to be read to may happily sit through an episode of Reading Rainbow and have the book read to him.
Tell stories. As your child gets older, around three, let him tell you stories, and you can tell him stories. Although you’re not reading, you are developing the love of the story tradition, which may develop into a love of books later.
Sing songs. There are plenty of songs that tell stories. Most nursery rhymes do. Even better than singing alone, act them out with your child. Try simple songs like “London Bridges” or “Ring Around the Rosey.” This type of activity is great for toddlers who are on the go.
Talk to your baby and toddler. All day long, talk to your child. Even if she don’t respond, she is listening and absorbing your words. Don’t feel the need to talk down to your child. Using more adult words helps your child enrich her vocabulary.
Listen to audio stories in the car. Your local library likely has plenty of audio stories at a level appropriate to your toddler. (Some of my favorites are Pooh stories.) Rather than playing music in the car, play the audio stories.
Read. Even if your child does not seem interested in books, keep reading to him. He might play with his trucks or his blocks while you’re reading, but he’s still benefiting. If he will sit beside you, try asking him questions about the story using the illustrations.
Places to Help You Find Good Books
You may have wandered the library with your toddler wondering what exactly makes a “good” book. At this age, the best advice is to simply let your toddler pick out the books he’d like to hear. However, if you’d like a more methodical way to choose your children’s books, there are plenty of great resources.
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I got this book at a baby shower. What a gift. Several chapters of this book explore the benefits of reading aloud as well as how to encourage a love of reading in your children. Then, later in the book, there is a treasure of read-alouds for various genres and ages. I routinely took Trelease’s book to the library with me to find quality books for my children to read.
Honey for the Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. Like Trelease’s book, this is a book to keep throughout your children’s childhoods. Hunt also discusses what makes a good book and how to create readers. Her reading lists are broken down by different genres. For the 0-3 age level, she simply breaks it down by board books and picture books. For older ages, she breaks it down by classic novels, books for animal lovers, historical novels, fantasy novels, etc.
Raising Bookworms by Emma Walton Hamilton. This book contains many strategies for hooking your child on reading. In addition, several chapters feature best reads for toddlers, preschoolers, elementary, middle school, and high school students.
Pinterest book & activities for toddlers. Toddlers Attention’s Pinterest page features many pins that combine read alouds for toddlers with fun, related craft activities. Indeed, Pinterest is a great way to find activities related to a story that will likely make your child more interested in reading.
What is your favorite strategy for instilling a love of books in your children?