5-Minute-Fun with your child: Reading to Toddlers

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Instead of boring yourself by reading only board books designed just for babies or toddlers, keep on the lookout for picture books with beautiful or funny drawings. Let your child point to the pictures and simply say the names of objects, or ask him to find partially hidden items for you in the pictures. Read every single day, and your child will learn how to treat books. Teach kids as babies that books are delicate, never to be ripped or chewed on.  When my own toddlers would begin to roughly turn a page or manhandle a book, I would stroke the book cover and say, “Gentle!  Books are precious.”  My children quickly learned respect and love for books this way.

I have wonderful videos of my children reading to their siblings when the younger ones were as little as six weeks old.  In one, baby Elisa is mesmerized by her sister Aimee’s voice as she lays cradled in her sister’s arms.

When your child can handle listening to about a sentence per page (at about eighteen months old) create your own condensed version, if a book has paragraphs of text yet interesting illustrations. Sometimes you can eliminate every other sentence and the story still makes sense, or simply make up your own story. As you read, don’t be afraid to use big words. Often big vocabulary words, in context with the story, can easily be understood by a young child. Condensing doesn’t have to mean using baby talk: just use fewer words with great expression.

Make your focus on helping the child explore book images instead of trying to get through the whole book story or even the story as written by the author. If he wants to turn the pages too quickly, that’s OK, but you can gently turn back and exclaim about something in a previous picture to get your child’s attention. Getting the child to interact with you and the book  is most important. Ask him to find and point to what he sees, and  you may be surprised at what he knows, even if he doesn’t quite have words to express that yet.

Little Critter books were our family’s favorites, because each page had a spider or grasshopper hiding somewhere within the other pictures for kids to find. This made my toddlers feel very clever. The illustrations in that series are humorous enough for an adult to enjoy as well, since they often convey the opposite of what the text actually says. Although small children don’t quite grasp that yet, as preschoolers they realize the additional layer of humor in the books.

Enjoy the most important aspect of reading to toddlers: snuggling and using books as a tool to see what your child knows. You might buzz through a book in a quick five minutes, but it’s amazing how you can learn a bit more about your child and enjoy some cuddling in such a short amount of time.

Eventually he will be able to read the book on his own, to you!

About Laurie Winslow Sargent

Laurie Winslow Sargent @LaurieSargent at ParentingbyFaith.com has tips for parents, and SellYourNonfiction.com offers advice to nonfiction writers. Author of Delight in Your Child's Design, Second Edition, Kindle (2016, EABooks), paperback edition (2005,Tyndale/Focus on the Family), and The Power of Parent-Child Play (2003, Tyndale). She has also contributed to 11 other books, dozens of magazines, and been on radio broadcasts aired in nearly every US state.

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