Cereal is on the floor, the laundry is piled high, and your toddler comes to you with her favorite book and exclaims, “Read bear book!”
Your instinct is to tell her, “Not now, Honey.” But then you stop and realize the chores can wait. After all, you want to encourage her interest in reading, and you want to show her that you love spending time reading together. A few moments together with a book brings you closer to your child. It connects good feelings about being with you to good feelings about books. When you read with your child, you are saying, “You are special.” When you read together, there are no distractions. You are completely focused on your child. You watch and listen. You snuggle together. You are creating good feelings around reading. Reading together tells her that you like to spend time with her!
Reading early sets her on a good path.
It’s never too early to begin reading to your child. When you read to your infant, you create good routines that will continue as she grows. Let her touch the pages and follow your fingertip with her eyes and hands as you point out pictures. She learns to watch and listen, and all the time, her brain is making connections.
Read often but for short times.
When she squirms away, she is saying, “All done for now.” Sometimes reading is a quiet, snuggly lap time. Other times, you might read while she plays or sits across from you on the floor.
Reading together encourages more reading.
Help her learn the names of people, animals, and things in her world. The language she hears now will become her words as she learns to talk. As your child gets older, if you let her choose which book to read, she will develop favorites. Reading the same book again and again will increase vocabulary and attention. Choosing books now will lead to her wanting to choose books to read by herself later.
For babies, begin with picture books.
- Babies like textures to touch and doors to open.
- Use rhythm and rhyme to grab your baby’s attention.
- Babies love cuddling and listening to the sound of your voice.
For toddlers, the book is just the beginning.
- Make reading part of an adventure, so have fun.
- Don’t feel you must read every word or every page.
- Point to the pictures – label them with simple names.
- Use words that match his skill and let him finish sentences.
- Involve him by asking questions: Where is the puppy? What does the puppy say?
- Instead of listening quietly, encourage him to talk more and “read” to you.
- Move to simple story books when his attention is longer (between ages 2 and 3).
Helpful parenting tips
Being together with books is a special time for both of you.
It’s a time to bond and develop a love for reading. Reading together will be much more memorable than doing dishes, so take a break with books!
- Remember, there is no right or wrong way to read together.
- Be silly and have fun, maybe even sing the words!
- Let her turn the pages – even if you are not done.
- Read every day for short times.
- Build routines – bring books to the quiet times of every day (like before sleep or after lunch).
- Sprinkle the good feelings of reading throughout the day.
- Pay attention to your child’s response. It’s okay not to read every word or every page.
- Find books at libraries, dollar stores, garage sales, or from friends.