Reading to Your Toddler
It is never too early to start reading with a child because it helps with the development of reading skills and language. Reading with a child at a young age and continuing to read as they get older also helps them learn to enjoy books and to want to read more.
- Young toddlers, aged 12 to 18 months, like to hold books, turn several pages at once, point at pictures with one finger, and even start carrying books around. They may bring a book to a caregiver and want to read it with the person. (However, young toddlers do not always sit still for the entire reading.) Board books and washable cloth books are good choices for young toddlers because the pages are easy to turn and sturdy. Young toddlers enjoy looking at books with pictures of children doing familiar things, pictures of animals and simple rhymes.
- Older toddlers, aged 18 months to 3 years, like to carry books around the house. They turn pages one at a time, and name familiar pictures. They enjoy looking at books, but can only focus on one or two things at a time. Therefore, they often demand that a story be read over and over again because each time the story is read, they see something new. In fact, some well-loved children's books have lots of hidden details on each page that keep parents interested through many readings, too. Older toddlers enjoy simple stories, books they can memorize, books about making friends and books about kids like them.
- Preschoolers, aged 3 to 4 years, hold a book without help, turn regular book pages one at a time, and sometimes pretend to read by moving their finger across the page. In addition to naming objects, they like to describe simple actions, such as sleeping or eating, and to retell a familiar story in their own words, adding their own interpretation of the story. Preschoolers enjoy and can sit still for slightly longer stories. They like silly stories and books about familiar activities like going to school or playing in the snow.
Read books with your child every day. Younger children have shorter attention spans, so try reading for shorter periods, several times each day. Choose stories that you like, and share your enthusiasm about the book with your child. Most children have favorite books; be prepared to read them over and over again. Don't forget to introduce new books, too; ask your local librarian for suggestions. If your child has a favorite book, look for others by the same author.
When you look at lists of recommended books for children, keep in mind that every child (like each of us) is different, so books that appeal to one child may not appeal to another. Similarly, a child may not be interested in a certain book today, but may love it a few days, weeks or months from now. You'll quickly notice that recommendations from reading experts differ — one expert may recommend a particular book for babies from 6 to 12 months; another may recommend the same book for older children. The only recommendation that truly matters is the one from your child!