Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekly Column: Reading Tips For Toddlers

Toddlers are good at many things -- screaming loudly, running wildly, and kissing sloppily, to give a few examples. But they’re not usually good at sitting still to read a book, at least not without some practice. So how can we foster a love of reading without strapping our toddlers to our laps for story time? Lots of ways!

Follow Their Lead
My 2-year-old is the fastest page-turner in Southwest Missouri, which makes it frustrating when she wants to turn and turn and turn….while I’m still trying to read an entire page. But that’s okay! She’s experiencing the book and she’s enjoying it. She’ll show an interest in plots eventually, and that’s when we’ll slow down. For now though, we’re just lucky to know there’s a beginning, middle, and end. Pages come and go, but the joy of speed-flipping through a book will stick with her so she’ll keep coming back for more.

Slow Down
On the flip side of a speedy page-turner is the toddler who asks questions about every single detail. Pictures need identifying, words need to be silly-ed up, and accompanying facial expressions must be repeated – and that’s just on the first page! If you’re only trying to finish the book quickly, your toddler’s antics might seem irritating. But they’re so very important. She’s making connections with the book’s meaning. She’s expressing moods in silly faces. She’s trying to understand the illustrations. She’s learning reading comprehension, at the ripe old age of 2. So slow down and let her point out each detail of a page, and just get comfortable. You may be there for awhile, so you’d better make the best of it!

Be Flexible
No really, be flexible. Toddlers are active and squirmy, so a story session may end up with you on the receiving side of restless reader’s kicks and shoves. Loosen your grip, shuffle around when needed, and let your toddler get comfortable. Even if that means he needs to bound across the room occasionally. If your little one is just not interested in reading that day, don’t force him to sit still. Even if he’s building a tower while you’re reading a silly rhyme, he’s still participating. To become a good reader, he’ll need to actually enjoy reading – and he can’t do that if reading becomes a mandatory chore.

Have Fun
Remember that reading a book together should be FUN! Never dreaded or forced. It might help make your story-telling voice more interesting to listen to by dramatizing your inflections or popping off with a few sound effects. Embarrass yourself! Try to let your toddler enjoy a book, in every way possible. It’s okay if he wants to see how a board book tastes. It’s okay if he wants to skip pages and miss entire segments of storyline. It’s okay if he decides to skip the book altogether in favor of a teddy bear across the room.

If you let your toddler’s unique approach to books – however fleeting or distractable – set the tone for all of your story-times, you’re going a long way towards raising a life-long reader.


  1. Awesome advice. Here's another little tip that I've picked up from my own little girl...

    Sometimes, when we get a new book, she's not really interested in it right away. She prefers the ones that she knows already. So in order to get her to sit through the new one, I don't read the story the first time. Instead, we go through it page by page pointing out the objects that she knows (ex. someone's shoes, or a ball). This way, the next time we sit down to read it she's already looking for the connections we made last time and so she sits quietly and lets me read the story.

    Totally works. =0)

  2. What a great idea, Tatiana! Easing into things always helps :)


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