Studies show that children with active exposure to language have social and educational advantages over their peers—and reading is one of the best exposures to language. The earlier you expose your toddler to reading, the stronger the foundation you are setting for later independent reading.
When and how to read to your toddler
Experts recommend you read to your child as often as you can and that you strive to have at least one scheduled reading time each day. Choosing regular times to read is a way to help your child learn to sit with a book and relax.
If your toddler will let you, hold him or her in your lap when you read. It’s a great spot for:
helping your child feel safe, happy, and relaxed
giving undivided attention
showing new things
You’ll find that your toddler has a mind of his or her own and wants to be independent and successful. Nurture these instincts by offering three or four books to choose from, praising your child’s selection, letting your toddler help you turn pages, and asking for help as you find things on a page. Your child will love to finish sentences in books with repetitive phrasing or rhymes.
Additional reading tips
Read whatever books your toddler asks for, even if it’s the same book every night for weeks and weeks.
Read slowly enough for your toddler to understand.
Read expressively, using different voices for different characters.
Use puppets, finger plays, or props while you read.
Encourage your toddler to clap or sing when you read rhythmic, sing-song books.
Talk about the illustrations with your child. Point to items and name them. Then ask your child to name them with you and offer enthusiastic praise as he or she does so.
Ask open-ended questions. 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! Show your child that reading is enjoyable.
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Setting up the environment Read-aloud time isn’t the only opportunity your child should have to spend time with books—toddlers love to choose and look at books on their own. Keep books in a basket on the floor or on a low shelf where your child can reach them easily and look at them independently. Keep some books in the car and always have a few handy in your bag for long waits at the doctor or lines at the post office.
Take your child to the library or the bookstore and let him or her select books to read at home. Many libraries and bookstores have toddler story times that your child might enjoy. And let your child see you reading—he or she is sure to imitate you.
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