Encouraging our toddlers to be enthusiastic readers is one of the most important jobs parents have. While it might be tempting to pop your little darling in front of a DVD or TV at the end of a long day, making the time to snuggle down with a good book really will set him up for life – and it’s a great excuse for a cuddle.
The benefits of reading to your tot
Stories are fantastic for enhancing your child’s memory and helping them put names to pictures. Your toddler will also absorb correct sentence structure and pronunciation by hearing you read. And don’t worry if he wants to read the same book again and again – repetition helps him to understand the story and become more involved.
Studies have shown that children who are read to from an early age have better language development* and are more likely to enjoy books later on, because they associate reading with something lovely they shared with a parent.
Get the most out of storytime
Make it regular – and fun! Set aside a special time each day for stories – bedtime is most common. Praise your toddler for even the smallest involvement, such as repeating words or describing a picture. Reading should always be fun, so don’t pressure him if he’s tired or loses interest.
Involve your toddler in reading
Show him the cover and read him the title of the book. Tots soon grasp that stories begin at the front and that pages must be turned to keep the story going. Follow the words with your finger so he realises those black squiggles are ‘words’ that form a ‘story’. Point to the pictures, and relate them to something familiar: “There’s a black cat like Granny’s!” This will help him learn familiar words to go with images. Point out colours and count things too.
Add a touch of drama
Read in a friendly voice and use different accents for each character. You may feel silly reading aloud, but your child will love it!
Visit the library
This will give your toddler the chance to select from a wide variety of reading material. Many libraries also hold storytime sessions for tots, plus their services and book loans are free. Make sure your child always has access to a selection of books at home too.
Enjoy the story
Talk to your child about the book you’ve been reading, discussing the characters and his favourite part of the story. This will encourage him to think about what he’s been hearing.
Top toddler reads
Peppa Pig: Peppa’s Gym Class
Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell
That’s Not My Lion, by Fiona Watt
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen
* National Literacy Trust’s Research Review: The Importance of Families and the Home Environment (revised March 2011).