Experts recommend parents read to their toddler as often as possible, striving for at least one scheduled reading time each day. It’s important because reading to your child is a great way to encourage emergent literacy.
“Reading aloud helps children to build memory, curiosity about reading and learning, and motivation to learn how to communicate,” said Dr. Emma Raizman, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Medina. “The one-on-one attention a child receives from a parent while reading also creates a bond between parent and child and forms a positive association for the child with reading and learning.”
But, toddlers are notorious for being short on attention and long on energy, and trying to read to a child who just won’t sit still can be frustrating.
The good news is you don’t need to make them sit still! You can still read and let your child wander around the room.
“They will likely come over from time to time to look at the pictures, or you can call them over to look at certain things,” said Dr. Raizman. “The more it becomes a regular part of their daily and bedtime routine, the more they will enjoy it and be able to spend longer and longer really enjoying it.”
Choosing regular times to read, such as before naps and bedtime, can help children learn to sit with a book and relax. But, don’t get discouraged if your child is constantly on the move and shows little interest in reading. There are things parents can do to spark interest in story time.
Remember, toddlers love repetition, so if your child seems uninterested in books, you may need to find a favorite and read it over and over again.
Also, you might find that your child sits still better while coloring or playing with a favorite toy while you read. Don’t assume that because your child isn’t looking at you or the book that she isn’t interested or listening.
At this age, toddlers want to be independent and successful. Encourage this by offering 3 or 4 books to choose from, praising the selection, letting your toddler help you turn pages and asking for help as you find things on a page. When you come to a repetitive phrase or rhyme in a book, pause and let your child finish it.
Before bedtime, allow your child to touch and play with favorite toys while you read aloud. The sound of your voice will be a soothing reminder of your bedtime routine and that books are a part of it.
Here are some additional tips that can encourage the love of books and reading in even the busiest toddler.
- Read whatever books your toddler asks for, even if it’s the same book every night for weeks and weeks (and weeks and weeks).
- Read slowly enough for your toddler to understand.
- Read expressively, using different voices for different characters and raising or lowering your voice as appropriate.
- Choose board books or cloth books that are durable. You can let your child use these books independently without having to worry about pages getting ripped.
- Use puppets, finger plays (like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider”), or props while you read.
- Encourage your toddler to clap or sing when you read rhythmic, sing-song books.
- If you find that your child is getting antsy, skip to the last page so that you can finish on a good note. You don’t need to go page by page or prolong the story.
- Talk about the illustrations. Point to items and name them. Then ask your child to name them with you and offer enthusiastic praise.
- Ask open-ended questions — “Why do you think the lion is going into the woods? What do you think will happen next?” This encourages your child to think about the story and to ask questions.
- Substitute your child’s name for the name of a character in the book.
Have fun with it and show your child that reading is enjoyable.