When toddlers are read to, they learn that reading is fun and books are exciting. They quickly figure out that books teach them new things. They're entertaining. They're funny. Before you know it, your toddler will be a preschooler clamoring for "one more story," and a child begging for "one more chapter." Reading to your toddler not only helps develop critical early literacy skills, but sets your child on the path towards a life-long love of literacy.
Here are some tips to get you started as you read with your toddler.
While most toddlers are ready to begin transitioning to board books and books with more "story," books that encourage vocabulary development are still great options. Books that contain pictures or photographs of common household items, foods, animals, etc. are wonderful choices for your toddler. As you look through these types of books with your child, "take turns" asking questions. Ask your child to point out objects and items he/she may know. Allow your child to point to objects and ask, "What's this?" over and over again. (Even if you have to say, "That's a rabbit" a hundred times!)
As you stop to talk about the illustrations or photographs, take the opportunity to expand on your child's vocabulary. Introduce new words -- especially descriptive words. If your child points out a ball, say, "Yes. That is a small, yellow ball." With one simple expansion, you've introduced size and color words. If your child points to a sheep, comment on his thick wool. Your child may not know what wool is, but he/she will now associate that word with sheep. This is a simple way to help your child learn new words and formulate new ideas and concepts. (And think about how many learning opportunities there are on every page!)
All kids are different, but for most toddlers, the general rule of thumb is to aim for books with one sentence per page. While I cannot wait to sit and read favorites like The Lorax or Stellaluna to my little miss, her attention span is just not ready for books with lengthy amounts of text. Stick to books with short sentences and interesting illustrations or photographs.
Read. Enjoy. Repeat.
When reading with a toddler, be prepared to read the same stack of books over and over again. Re-reading favorite books helps pave the way towards early literacy skills. You are modeling fluency and expression, and helping your toddler make connections. When your child reaches for Barnyard Dance! or Goodnight Moon for the zillionth time, happily accept.
Out of Order
When you read with your toddler, they are likely to turn the pages faster than you can read them, turn back to a page towards the beginning, or immediately flip to the end. It's all good! Don't let their haphazard page-flipping fluster you. At this age, reading the book from cover to cover is not the goal. You are helping your child develop a love of books, learn new words, and formulate concepts. Reading with your two-year-old needs to be fun -- not frustrating!
When your child inevitably flips the pages, follow her lead. If she is flipping due to attention, simply talk about the pictures. Don't feel like you have to read all of the text. Read a few of the words. Ad-lib. Tell the gist of the story. Don't stress if she won't let you read every word.
Often, I'll notice that my two-year-old continues to flip towards certain pages. She will want to look at a particular drawing again or find the page with the funny incident. When she does this, we'll stop and talk about that page. We point out what we notice. I ask her questions. We stop and enjoy the page, indulge her interests, and utilize the teachable moment.
Have fun reading with your toddler. Pull out a stack of board books, snuggle up together, and set your child on the path towards a life-long love of books and learning.
"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." ~Emilie Buchwald