infants

Make your own books. Cut out pictures of objects familiar to babies-a ball, a kitty, shoes, family members, a crib, cookies, teddy bears-and slip each one into a plastic baggie to create pages. As you go through the book together, talk about and verbally label each picture: "see the kitty! Meow, meow. Soft kitty. Nice kitty. There's kitty's tail. Here's her nose." Encourage babies to point to ears, eyes, or feet.

Try making another book with all animal pictures. As you share each page, talk about the animals and exaggerate their sounds. For instance, when you turn to the pig picture, you can ask, "What does the piggy say?" Then be sure to call out, "Oink! Oink!" This is a great book to share with several babies snuggled close to you on a couch, or leaning against you as you sit on the floor.

Modify picture books. Often, the storyline of a book is too complex for a young baby. So, simplify! Use your own words to describe the pictures. For instance, if you are reading Curious George, turn each page and exclaim, "Look, a monkey!" "Another monkey!" "More monkeys!" Remember, the story is less important than the pleasure you share as a baby recognizes the monkey's curly tail and brown fur. As you read with slightly older babies, be creative and make up a simple story about a character or animal on a page: "Look at that foal. He's galloping and galloping and chasing around on the grass. He loves to munch on the grass. Yum, it's good! Mama horse and little foal are eating their lunch."

Be dramatic. Your vocal expressions definitely make picture-book reading more fun. Try all kinds of tones-showing surprise, whispering, drawing out vowels ("Baby bear was sooooo sleepy!")-to keep your baby's interest. When using a book to soothe your baby, be sure to look for those with repetitive rhythms, rhymes, and gentle words (such as Goodnight Moon), so your voice and the story can work together to lull babies to sleep.

toddlers

Choose interactive books. Even when snuggled close for story time, some toddlers may have difficulty sitting still. Try to find books that encourage their participation by pushing moveable parts, uncovering a hiding teddy bear, making a clown pop up, or patting the bunny.

Help toddlers feel personally attached. Toddlers like to possess books. Look for ones with handles or large plastic rings that toddlers can clutch and carry around as precious possessions. In other words, hook your toddlers on books, literally and figuratively!

Find books about kindly characters. As you graduate to reading stories, be sure to share those about characters doing kindnesses for one another (A Pocket for Corduroy is a good example).

Tune in to preferences and interests. Toddlers are more comfortable with simple story lines about familiar, daily activities. As you read together, note which children enjoy more involved stories and longer books.

Don't forget the mischief! Sam, from Sam 's Potty, who is grumpy about toilet training, can be very appealing. In the safe confines of a book, these characters are not "perfect." Yet, because they are still lovable and cherished by their families, their stories provide a secure feeling for toddlers, who sometimes have upsets or grumpy feelings, too.

Convey your pleasure. As you settle down to read, let children know you enjoy books and reading together. If you are excited or involved in a simple story, toddlers will get swept into the tale.