The toddler years are critical for laying the foundation for strong reading and writing skills, and as a parent, it’s important that you work to instill a love of books in your little one. Reading with your toddler shouldn’t be a chore or a regimented school-like activity – it should be fun, imaginative and interactive. Use these tips to help your toddler cultivate a love of reading.
1. Read with your toddler.
It’s obvious, but reading with your toddler is most important thing you can do to start your child off on the right foot for reading, writing and overall academic success. It’s easy for most parents to build reading time into the daily nap and bedtime routines. Reading can be a great way to help manage transitions throughout the day.
2. Introduce your toddler to many genres.
There are countless books for toddlers — fairy tales, rhyming books, poetry, alphabet and counting books, word books, nursery rhymes and more. Expose your child to a variety of books.
3. Take an interactive approach to reading.
In addition to reading the story, you can use descriptive phrases to talk about and ask questions about the pictures in a book. Try this out, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to lose the thread of the story or overwhelm your toddler with quizzes about the illustrations.
4. It’s OK if your child doesn’t sit still.
Toddlers are an on-the-go bunch, and sometimes it’s difficult to get them to stay in one place long enough to read an entire book. Instead of trying to force your child to sit and listen, pick a book with a lot of action and encourage the toddler to act it out.
5. Arm your child with writing instruments.
In addition to reading, another important area of literacy learning is writing. Scribbling is the first stage of writing and a developmental step that incorporates fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Make sure your child has lots of writing instruments — crayons, colored pencils and (washable) markers, as well as blank paper. Ask your toddler about the pictures she draws and encourage her to be creative and connect words to pictures.
6. Have books accessible.
Age-appropriate books should be accessible to a toddler throughout your home. Keep books in toy boxes and on low shelves so that your toddler can access them without your help. Remember, toddlers should interact with books even if they aren’t “reading” like an adult does. It’s totally fine if your toddler is using board books to build or pretending to read with the book upside down.
7. Visit the library often.
Take your child to the library on a regular basis, both for formal story times and just to play in the children’s section — most libraries now offer interactive children’s areas with games and activities in addition to books. Let your child pick out a few books to check out and bring home. It’s a great way to try out lots of new books without investing.
8. Let your child read the same book over and over.
It may be driving you nuts, but toddlers often want to hear the same story night after night. While you may be concerned about this, it’s not an issue for the toddler. The repetition helps him learn and the routine can be comforting. If your toddler loves hearing the same book, add a second book to mix things up.
9. Think beyond books.
Reading doesn’t start and stop with books. Reading is all around us — on food labels, cereal boxes, road signs, on postcards and restaurant menus — opportunities to read to your child are everywhere. Don’t forget to think outside the bedtime routine and incorporate reading, with or without a book, throughout your toddler’s day.