“How to Get Your Toddler to Enjoy Reading”
by Shana Hollowell, MPH
I cannot think of a better activity than reading with your child. Not only is it a great bonding experience, but it helps your child learn the meanings of words, explore new concepts through pictures, and stimulate their imagination. Some parents may feel reading to their child during the toddler years is a challenge due to their attention span and ability to sit quietly. However, the following are some easy tips to get your energetic, busy toddler to wind down and develop a love for reading.
Select the right book.
Choose a book that you think your toddler will enjoy, not necessarily a book that you want to read. Make sure it is fun and age appropriate. Books geared towards toddlers usually rhyme and are not too long, which is important as toddlers are not known for their attention span. Toddlers love animals, the alphabet, real pictures of children, a finger puppet, etc. When reading the book to your toddler, say the rhymes in a sing-song voice. Your child will enjoy hearing your voice and looking at the bright, colorful pictures.
Read every day.
Make sure that reading to your child is an important part of your day. Children love routine so whether you read before nap time, after bath time, before bed time, etc., try to read to your toddler at the same time every day. It also makes a good winding down activity for active toddlers. Soon your child will begin to expect and look forward to reading time.
Keep books accessible.
Store your child’s books so that they are readily accessible to them, not just you. View your child’s room from their eye level. Install book racks low on the wall so they are within your toddler’s reach or store books on the floor in a basket or bin. Create a special reading nook in their bedroom with a bean bag chair or a cool teepee. The goal is to keep your child’s books low so they are able to see them and pick out a book to look at whenever they choose.
Change books as interests change.
As your toddler grows, they may begin developing new or different interests. You want your child to enjoy the books they read and learn that books are special so change books as your child’s interests change. You can also promote reading during special occasions. For instance, if you celebrate Christmas, when you put your Christmas tree up, place Christmas storybooks under the tree so your toddler can pick out a Christmas story to read leading up to Christmas Day. Websites that carry a variety of low cost children’s books are Thriftbooks and Amazon.
Involvement is key.
When you read to your child, do not just read the story word for word and close the book. Instead, explain and involve your child in the book. Let them hold and feel the book. Talk about what is in each picture before turning the next page. For instance, in “Little Mouse’s Sweet Treat,” little mouse meets different animals that share their preferred food with him. Talk to your toddler about the colors of each animal and the sounds they make. For example, on the page where little mouse meets the cow and the cow offers him grass to eat, you can also say “The cow is black and white. The cow says moo.” Then after a couple reads, you should be able to point to the cow and ask your toddler “what animal is this” and they will respond “cow” and then say “what does the cow say” and they will respond “moo.” Then, try to incorporate it into everyday life. For instance, when you drive past a cow pasture, say “look a cow just like little mouse met in the book.” Another fun activity in “Little Mouse’s Sweet Treat,” is to have your child find and point out the little snail that is hiding on each page. Toddlers get so excited when they find the snail that follows little mouse on his journey.
Keep at it.
If your toddler does not seem interested, do not give up. They are learning and absorbing so many new things. Just keep reading and soon your toddler will start asking you to read to them. Sometimes they may ask for one particular book to be read over and over, but just remember this is how they learn. They are internally building their memory, vocabulary, and understanding. Then, one day they will repeat phrases from the book and read to you. This makes it all worthwhile. I hope these tips help make reading an enjoyable experience for you and your toddler and they grow into becoming a lifelong reader.
Shana Hollowell is a public health professional and author of the children’s picture book, “Little Mouse’s Sweet Treat.” She has two boys age 8 months and 2 years old and reads to them every day. “Little Mouse’s Sweet Treat,” is recommended for children ages 0-5 and is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
About the Book:
Little Mouse’s Sweet Treat is a cheerful, lyrical story that tells the tale of a little mouse that goes on an adventure in search of something sweet. He meets lots of friends along the way that share their preferred treats with him, but none are quite right. He is disappointed until he arrives home and realizes his Mommy baked the sweetest snack just for him – cookies! Toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners love this book.
About the Author:
Shana Hollowell has a Master’s of Public Health in Health Care Management from Eastern Virginia Medical School and a Bachelor’s of Biology from Old Dominion University. She is a Supervisor for the Virginia Department of Health. She has a background in HIPAA compliance, medical research compliance, and veterinary management. She lives in Suffolk, Virginia, with her husband, two baby boys, four cats, 31 koi fish, and hundreds of bonsai trees. She has been published previously in scientific journals, but this is her first children’s picture book.
Thank you, Shana, for this very helpful advice!