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Sharing Books With Your Toddler

Reading to wriggly kids can be a challenge, but it pays off in many ways



As a self-proclaimed book nerd and lover of all things literature, it came as no surprise to my family and friends when they received a note on my daughter’s first birthday invitation asking them to please skip the gifts and bring a book to the party. After all, what could be more special for a first birthday gift than a new children’s book with a special note from a loved one scribed on the inside cover? Now age 7, my daughter still likes to pull out her special birthday books, and she now can read the notes inside on her own.

Fostering a love of reading in my children was so important to me when I became a mom. Mostly because I love to read myself, but also because reading truly sets the foundation for so many future skills. But reading to your toddler isn’t always the easiest of tasks. My picture-perfect image of sitting in a rocking chair with my quiet little one snuggled up and listening was a bit of a stretch. Instead, I got a wiggly, busy baby who wanted to grab at the pages, crawl off my lap and chat throughout the story. It was frustrating, it was hard…but it was worth it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees. Even if it feels like your little one is hardly paying attention, reading to your child is paying off.  A new study by the AAP shows that reading daily to young children, starting even in infancy, can help with language acquisition and literacy skills. 

“We know that the more words that are in a child’s language world, the more words they will learn, and the stronger their language skills are when they reach kindergarten, the more prepared they are to be able to read, and the better they read, the more likely they will graduate from high school,” explains Dr. Pamela High of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Reading to toddlers sets the foundation for later independent reading. Dr. High explains that reading problems can be challenging to fix when discovered in elementary school, but most reading problems can be prevented if exposure to reading starts in the toddler and preschool years. Before children can read independently, they need emergent literacy skills. These include:

  • Having a large vocabulary of words and knowing how to use them
  • Understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds (called phonemic awareness)
  • Understanding that marks on a page represent letters and words
  • Knowing the letters of the alphabet

The AAP recommends setting aside 10 to 20 minutes with the TV off every evening for sharing books as part of your regular bedtime routine. For infants and babies, simply reading board books and talking about the pictures you see is enough. For toddlers, the AAP says you can step up your reading routine with these tips:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place for book sharing.
  • Use book-sharing as a way to calm and comfort your child.
  • Start a conversation by repeating an important word your child has just said, You can say: “Balloon. Lots of balloons. The girl has lots of balloons.” Then wait for your child to say something more.
  • Count pictures and wait for your child to repeat the numbers after you.
  • Respond with enthusiasm to your child’s questions and comments.
  • Ask your child to show you all the things in a picture that are alike in some way. You can say: “Can you find all the blue things?” or “Show me all the things that can fly.”
  • Point out colors, shapes, numbers in their books.
  • Take your child to the local public library to borrow books or to enjoy Story Time.
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