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.
Why reading with your toddler is important
Sharing stories, talking and singing every day helps your child’s development in lots of ways.
You’re getting your child familiar with sounds, words, language, print 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 childhood.
Reading stories also stimulates your child’s imagination and helps her learn about the world around her.
And reading together creates a precious time for bonding with your child.
Sharing books with your toddler
At this age and stage, reading with your child is all about having fun with books, spending special time together and modelling a love of books.
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. The routine could include a special reading space – for example, a chair, lounge or beanbag that’s big and comfortable enough for you and your child, with a box of books or bookshelf nearby.
- Make reading and storytelling relaxed and fun so that your child looks forward to it. There’ll be days when she doesn’t want to spend a long time reading, and that’s OK. Just be guided by her interest.
- 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 he can see your face and the book.
- Involve your child in reading by encouraging talk about the pictures, and by repeating familiar words or passages. Try out funny noises and sounds – play and have fun!
- If she wants to, let your child choose the books. She 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. Books that are the right length for your child will keep him engaged.
Toddlers might especially enjoy:
- books with animals and animal noises
- books about a favourite topic, like cars, trucks, fairies, pets, stars and planets, music, castles, the ocean, 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
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, which includes Whose baby? and Whose nose?
I went walking by Sue Williams
Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Each peach, pear, plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Cuddle time by Libby Gleeson
- The Hairy Maclary collection by Lynley Dodd.
Why not visit your local library? It’s free to join and borrow. The staff will be able to recommend books for you and your child to enjoy.
Video Telling stories with children
In this short video, storyteller Anne E. Stewart talks about telling stories with children. She says storytelling promotes literacy and language and gets children ready to start reading. Stories about family and culture also give children a sense of their place in the world. You can use actions and rhymes to get children involved in the story.