Reading With Toddlers
Rachel Haley, M.Ed.   •   March 1, 2022

Everyone has heard of the importance of reading to children from a young age. Reading to children helps expose them to new vocabulary, builds literacy skills, and hopefully creates a love of reading that will carry them into their lives. While there is no question that reading to children has a positive impact, there is also a saying that some things are “easier said than done.”

Toddlers are one of those age groups where even the simplest of activities, such as reading, can be fun and yet very challenging for parents. Toddlers are all about movement and have very short attention spans. So, how do you get them to slow down and enjoy the many benefits that come from sitting in your lap with a good book? Here are a few suggestions:

Pick the Right Books:

  • Keep it short- A book for a toddler should typically be read in 4-5 minutes. If a book is longer than that, try summarizing the words on the page to help keep momentum and engagement.

  • Interest is key- Choose books that have topics your child is interested in like animals, trains, superheroes, everyday activities that your toddler experiences, etc.

  • Sturdy and Stable-The goal is to get your toddler wanting to engage with books, so board or cloth books that can hold up against their little hands and last are a must.

  • Sensory and Interactive books- We learn by our five senses (this is especially true for young children), so any book that can incorporate touch such as texture, flaps, or pop-up books will only help engage them more thoroughly.

  • Let them choose- Your child will be more willing to listen to a book that they chose even if that means reading the same book for the hundredth time!

Set the Time Up to be Successful:

  • Create a routine for your reading- Your child will get used to the routine and be more ready and willing to focus on the book.

  • Find the right spot- A reading area or simply crawling up into your lap can be the perfect space to create a connection between you, your child, and the book.

Make Reading Fun:

  • Make it animated- The more engaged you are with the story, the more your child will engage. By using silly voices, sounds, and actions, you can extend your child’s attention span.

  • Ask questions- Toddlers have an opinion on everything, so ask your child what they think about the story, what they think the character should do, etc. Reading should be an active activity and not just a passive one.

  • Point to objects and talk about the pictures- If your child is not wanting to sit through the words on the page then focus on the pictures.
  • Let them turn the pages- Toddlers love being in charge and having a “job” to do. This will help keep them engaged as they look forward to completing a task after each page.

Even after keeping all the above in mind, remember reading time will not be perfect. If a toddler won’t physically sit down to listen to a book, let them fidget and move about as you read to them. While they may not be looking at the book, they are listening! If your child focuses on the book for one minute that day or ten minutes the next, you are making a difference in your child’s future one book at a time!

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