Eight tips for reading with a toddler

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on May 3, 2012

in Infant and Toddler, Reading with Toddlers

One of my favorite ways to spend time with my grandson is sitting down to read with him and my grandson truly loves the reading experience…

Reading with my grandson has given me the opportunity to observe and participate in the toddler reading experience. Based upon my own personal observations, I thought I would share with you a few helpful tips I have discovered about reading with a toddler…

Read with a toddler tip #1: Choose quality board books

The books that we currently read with my 12 month old grandson are almost all books that come in the form of a board book.  After reading the book at least one time through, my grandson likes to have me read the book again only this time, he wants to turn the pages himself. Because my grandson is still building the necessary fine motor control to grasp objects, the thicker pages of a board book make it much easier for my grandson to grab a hold of each page..

Read with a toddler tip #2: Get the board book “read-ready”

One thing I do to help my grandson turn the pages of a board book is to get the board book “read-ready.” If the board book is new or barely used, it can be stiff and difficult to keep each page in the open position. To help with this, I open each page of the book and bend it backwards to try and stretch out the binding just a little bit. Bending back the pages help them to stay open rather than quickly snapping back closed every time my grandson lets go of a page…

Read with a toddler tip #3:  Fingertip page turning

In my grandson’s case, he likes to sit through the reading of the book without interacting with the book the first time we sit to read it – he just wants to watch as I read and turn the pages. After I have read a book with my grandson a time or two, I like to encourage him to try turning the pages on his own. Whether I am reading a book with paper pages or board pages, I lift up the page with my finger just a bit when I am ready to turn the page but I don’t always go ahead and turn the page.  If I pause for just a few seconds, my grandson will almost always reach down where my finger is and turn the page the rest of the way by himself…

Read with a toddler tip #4: Follow your child’s lead and know the difference between types of books

There are different kinds of books and my grandson likes some and others he tends to lack any interest in. I try to pay attention to which books he enjoys and which ones he doesn’t seem to be all that interested in.  I also have noticed that different types of books invite different kinds of interaction. For example…

  • My grandson likes books that make sounds when you push a button but doesn’t necessarily want to sit and actually read through the book.  For a sound or audio book, my grandson would rather just play with the buttons or listen to the sounds rather than listen to me read the book. He does enjoy reading sound books but I adjust my approach to reading with him. I don’t worry about reading the book. Instead, we just interact together with the buttons and sounds as I talk about the pictures on each page of the book.
  • My grandson loves flap books like “Where’s Spot”.  My grandson has become quite proficient at opening and closing the flap of each door, drawer, basket and so forth on the pages of the “Spot” book we read. In my grandson’s case, he likes for me to read the book all the way through and lift the flaps myself through the first reading. After the first reading, my grandson likes to read the book again and this time he will reach out and lift the flaps himself.
  • And my grandson loves simple read-aloud books. With a simple read-aloud picture book, my grandson enjoys having me read it to him over and over again. He often likes to turn the pages himself after the first reading or two and I have noticed that he likes certain pictures better than others. In the board book titled “The Best Mouse Cookie” by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond, my grandson always stops the reading to reach out and touch the same spot on the same page of the book every time we read it. He will sit and rub his finger over a certain spot on the page for a few seconds and then he is ready to move on.  I am not sure why he likes this picture over all the others but this is his reading experience so I follow his lead. When he is ready to move on, we move on.


Reading with a toddler tip #5: Know the best time for reading

My grandson seems to enjoy reading the most when he is ready to wind down from other types of play. As a general practice, we tend to read with my grandson right before nap time or bed time.  However, we don’t necessarily connect reading to going to sleep – keep that in mind.  On some days, I will sit and read to my grandson at the end of a busy day while waiting for his mommy to pick him up or any time he is ready to switch from a more active type of play to something more calm.  Although we are happy to read with my grandson any time he shows an interest, wind-down times seem to be the times when he is most attentive and interested in the reading experience…

Reading with a toddler tip #6: Keep books within toddler reach

All of my grandson’s favorite books are down where he can reach them anytime he wants. There are times when my grandson will stop and push the buttons or turn the pages or look at the pictures on his own because the books are a part of his play experience and play things…

Reading with a toddler tip #7: Gradually build up your collection

Because I am a preschool teacher, I probably have over 50 board books in my collection of children’s books but my grandson and I have only read about five of those books. It seems that my grandson would rather read the same book many times over than read something new. Every once in awhile, I will introduce a new book to my grandson along with his current favorites and if he is responsive to the book, it is a keeper and if he lacks any interest, the book goes back on the shelf to wait for another day…

Reading with a toddler tip #8: Get everybody reading

Everyone in my grandson’s family gets involved in the reading experience in their own way. His mommy and daddy read to him daily and even grandpa gets in on the action every once in awhile.  Different personalities bring variety into the reading experience and for my grandson, reading with his family leads to the important process of building bonds and creating memories related to the reading experience.

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1 Phil May 3, 2012 at 10:26 pm

These are great tips, and you get bonus points because they are pretty unique as well. With all the stuff I’ve been hearing about “boys don’t like to read as much as girls” lately, it’s also great to see how you don’t feel the need to make an issue of gender. If you read to children as described above, they will always become interested in reading. I’m a huge fan of #8!

2 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 3, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Thanks for the bonus points :) And yes, I agree – no need to make reading an issue of gender – if you have a toddler you have a future reader – you just need to find the most inviting way to nurture the reading experience.

3 Bridget H. May 3, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Lovely & informative blog post! Your grandson is a very lucky boy to have such a great, involved grandma. :)

4 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 3, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Thank you Bridget :)

5 crystal@growingajeweledrose May 3, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Great tips! I never thought to get new books read-ready.

6 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 4, 2012 at 12:00 am

I only thought of this after I noticed one of the books kept shutting closed while I was reading it and I naturally bent it backwards for myself. Then I thought – well if this is a problem for me then it must be a problem for my grandson:)

7 Km May 4, 2012 at 12:00 am

You must be savoring every moment with your sweet grandson!!! It seems like just yesterday he was born.. Now he is “reading!” Thank you for the informative list! Spot is one of favorites around here.

8 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 4, 2012 at 12:02 am

Doesn’t time go by so quickly! I am savoring every moment – he is such a treasure.

9 Jen@Creative and Curious Kids! May 4, 2012 at 9:04 am

Great post! I’ve always loved reading to my toddlers. At naptime, I love to read with little man- I call it story and snuggles. My husband and I started reading to our kids when they were in the hospital. I loved watching my husband read Guess How Much I Love You to my new babies! :)
I need to read more to my older girls. ( both 8 and 10) Even though they are both fluent readers, I think it is important to have this time with them.

Jen

10 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 4, 2012 at 9:41 am

You make a good point Jen. It is easy to get away from reading to children once they become readers but reading together at any age is great for building bonds and memories.

11 Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum May 4, 2012 at 10:27 am

Brilliant advice, thank you for sharing – I’m trying to read with my two toddlers – one just a toddler and the other soon to be pre-schooler and that is proving challenging as we want to read together but not the same thing at all

12 Allison May 4, 2012 at 10:53 am

Great tips Deborah, thanks for sharing! He is adorable. :)

13 Barbaral May 4, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Great, practical tips. Thanks, Deborah!

14 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 5, 2012 at 11:20 am

Thanks for stopping by Barbaral!

15 janetlansbury May 5, 2012 at 12:45 am

These are fantastic Deborah! I especially love the way your grandson is reading the book upside down. I think some parents feel that they have to correct that…but if we really think about it…why? I’ve found that children need free rein to explore and do things *their* way. It can be discouraging for toddlers when the person reading has too much of an agenda. Anyway, Deborah, this is awesome in so many ways…and your love for your grandson is SO evident! :)

16 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 5, 2012 at 11:19 am

Hi Janet,
I think we can over think the reading process at times and worry too much about trying to structure it. I find my grandson does a terrific job leading the way – I just have to pay attention while he does. It was so nice to hear from you today:) It always makes me smile!

17 janetlansbury May 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Deborah, you make me smile, too! You are the grandma I aspire to be (though I won’t be nearly as young as you are when that happens!). I’m REALLY looking forward to that chapter in my life. :)

18 Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas May 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm

We always had books at ready reach in our home. So many people would tell me – be careful, they will tear them. I always laughed. I do NOT believe in hiding books. Kids need to interact with them beyond our reading times. My girls always “played” with their books and they have enjoyed reading from early on. Great post! LOVE all the photos of that adorable grandbaby! :)

19 Emily Kate May 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm

This is a great post! I think most parents don’t realize that sometimes you have to really work to get your children interested in books. As much as I love reading, I admit I expected my daughter to love books from birth but she just didn’t have the attention span or interest for awhile. What got her interested at first were interactive books like the lift the flap and slide and find kind. The “Where’s Spot” book you mentioned was one of the first she wanted to read over and over. Now she’s really become much more interested in books and it makes me so happy. I expect we’ll spend a lot of time reading together in the future!

20 Victoria @ Mommy Marginalia May 7, 2012 at 11:35 am

What an excellent resource! Wish I had had some of these tips when my 2yo son was younger (and my Type A personality actually expected him to sit through a story book! silly me!). Definitely stashing this away as we start thinking about #2 . . .

21 Trisha @ Inspiration Laboratories May 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Great tips! Our board books are very worn out from my son exploring them (and mouthing them). He grew out of that phase and now takes very good care of his books. I think allowing him to have access to books at all times and teaching him how to be careful with the non-board books was helpful.

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