Early Childhood Today

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Infants & Toddlers: Book-Sharing Activities / A letter to families


Look for picture books with mama and baby animals. Babies will point to the mama horse and her foal or the cat with kittens. Joyously make animal noises as you look at each farm picture. Use animated voice tones and enthusiasm as you tell a story about a picture in the book. Encourage babies to make the animal sounds with you as you talk about each picture. You become a special friend-not only someone who comforts, cleans, and feeds, but someone who opens the amazing and surprising world of stories for an infant's delight.

Express your joy in picture books. Year-old infants will bring you a favorite book to read and babble excitedly as you ask them, "Do you want me to read your favorite book about animals?" Shared delight in stories enhances an infant's desire to be an interactive partner in the picture book-sharing activity. Joint sharing of attention is a priceless social step forward for babies.

Point to the bold illustrations. Babies learn to look in the direction of your pointing finger as you exclaim with interest, "Look, the mama doggy is nursing her puppies!" Sharing books this way increases a baby's ability to cooperate in a joint activity.

Toward the end of their first year, snuggle with babies as you sit on the floor and share a favorite picture book. Their social pleasure is enriched as they call out " Moo-moo!" or "Quack-quack!" when you ask for the noises that each animal makes.

Take your time. Let the babies enjoy each picture. Make picture-book sharing a leisurely, sociable activity in which all can join in and babble and point and even learn to turn pages.


Be sure to have a special place where you keep toddler books. If the shelf is low and there are comfortable cushions right there, a toddler may well pull out a favorite book and sit and babble the words, turn pages, and point to pictures in imitation of your style of reading.

Use your voice creatively in sharing picture books-low tones, excited tones, and drawn-out words. Your voice tones will encourage toddlers to snuggle closer to be sure they hear the story you are sharing. Books for young children may not have enough words to make a story line clear. You are the social organizer of book reading. Be sure to add words that make the story line clearer. Also, be certain to point out lots of details in each picture so that toddlers become more observant and think more about what is going on in the story.

Whenever possible, try to add words to the stories that will encourage young children to be considerate of one another. You will be enhancing each toddler's social skills if the story character says "Thank you!" or "That was so nice of you to help!," even when those words are not printed in the story. If their favorite story characters use these words a lot, then toddlers, who are great imitators, will "copycat" the characters and use words of kindness, which will enhance the social fabric of your classroom.

Choose some easy poems to read with toddlers. Toddlers play with language. Often they murmur rhyming words such as oogie, woogie, poogie to themselves. Short poems in which the rhymes are vivid delight a toddler.

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