By Raising Children Network
Print Email
Reading aloud and sharing stories with your child is one of the most important and enjoyable things you can do together. If you’re not sure what or how to start reading with your toddler, here are some ideas.
Toddler reading a book with her mother

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

Your child’s ability to hear, recognise and use sounds in her early years will help her have success later in life when she’s learning to read. 

Why reading with your toddler is important

Sharing stories, talking and singing everyday helps your child’s development. You’re getting your child familiar with sounds, words, language and, eventually, the value and joy of books. This all builds your child’s early literacy skills and helps him go on to read successfully later in life.

Reading stories also stimulates your child’s imagination and helps her learn about the world around her. It’s a great time for you to bond with your child and share time together too.

You can start reading to your child as early as you like – the earlier the better. Our articles on reading and storytelling with children and developing literacy have more information to get you and your child started.

Sharing books with your toddler

At this age and stage, reading with your child is all about having fun with books and spending special time together. Here are some tips that can help you and your budding reader make the most of book time:

  • Help your child choose a book, then ask him to hold the book and turn the pages.
  • Get your child to fill in the words in a story she knows. Also try pausing and letting her finish sentences for you.
  • Ask your toddler to name what he sees in the pictures.
  • Talk with your toddler about the sounds animals make.
  • Sing nursery rhymes and fun songs together.

These general tips are helpful for reading and storytelling with most young children:

  • Make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day.
  • Turn off the TV or radio, and find a quiet space to read so your child can focus and listen to your voice.
  • Hold your child close or on your knee while you read so she can see your face and the book.
  • Try out funny noises and sounds – play and have fun!
  • Involve your child in the reading by encouraging talk about the pictures, and by repeating familiar words or passages.
  • Visit your local library – it’s free to join and borrow. The staff there might be able to recommend books for you and your child to enjoy.
  • If he wants to, let your child choose the books. He might have favourite authors and illustrators.
  • Be prepared to read your child’s favourite books over and over again!

What to read with your toddler

There are so many books to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start. As a broad rule, young children often enjoy books that have good rhyme, rhythm and repetition – and these qualities can help children learn. 

Toddlers might especially enjoy:

  • books with animals and animal noises
  • books about a favourite topic, such as cars, trucks, fairies, princesses or trains
  • books about playtime that relate to their experiences
  • lift-the-flap and pop-up books – at this age, children can have fun with books with moveable pieces.

Here are some great books for toddlers:

  • Crocodile Beat by Gail Jorgensen and Patricia Mullins
  • On Your Potty by Virginia Miller
  • Rumble In The Jungle Pop-up Book by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz
  • Time For Bed by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Wheels on the Bus by Penny Dann
  • What Colour Are Your Knickers by Sam Lloyd
  • The Whose… series by Jeanette Rowe (this includes Whose Baby? and Whose Nose?).
For more story ideas, you could check out our storytelling videos. Let storyteller Anne E. Stewart introduce you and your child to ‘Mook Mook the Owl’, ‘The Crocodile’, ‘The Old Lady and The Mosquito’ and ‘How the Years were Named for Animals’.
  • Add to favourites
  • Create pdf
  • Print
  • Email
  • Last Updated 15-07-2011
  • Last Reviewed 13-07-2011
  • Anderson, R.C., Hiebert, E.H., Scott, J.A., & Wilkinson, I.A.G. (1985). Becoming a nation of readers: The report of the Commission on Reading. Washington, DC: National Academy of Education, Commission on Education and Public Policy.

    Centre for Community Child Health (2008). Policy brief no 13 2008: Literacy in early childhood. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from

    Centre for Community Child Health & The Smith Family (2004). Let’s read: Literature review. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from

    Linke, P. (2003). Right from the start: Loving reading with your baby. Adelaide: Child and Youth Health & Parenting South Australia.

    Moss, B., & Fawcett, G. (1995). Bringing the curriculum of the world of the home to the school. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 11, 247-256.

    Reading Rockets (2008). Reading tips for parents. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from

    Royal Children’s Hospital (2005). Literacy experiences in the 20th century. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from

    Royal Children’s Hospital (2005a). Promoting reading with young children. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from

    Saracho, O.N. (1997). Using the home environment to support emergent literacy. Early Child Development and Care, 127, 201-216.

    Snow, C., Burns, M., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Zero to Three Publications (2000). Starting smart: How early experiences affect brain development. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from

    Zero to Three Publications (2010). Early literacy. Retrieved January 31, 2011, from