By Raising Children Network
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Toddler reading a book with her mother

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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. 
 
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 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?).

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.
 
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’.
 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 15-07-2011