Why reading with babies and toddlers is important
Sharing stories, talking and singing every day helps your baby’s development in many ways.
You’re getting your child familiar with sounds, words and language. This builds your child’s early literacy skills, like the ability to listen to and understand words, and the ability to focus. It also helps your child to enjoy books and read successfully later in childhood.
Reading stories stimulates your child’s imagination and helps them learn about the world. It’s also a great time for you to bond with your young child and share time together.
You can start reading to your baby as early as you like – the earlier the better. Our articles on reading stories with babies and children and developing literacy have more information to get you and your baby started.
Sharing books with babies and toddlers
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 to help you and your baby or toddler make the most of reading time:
- Share a ‘goodnight’ book or family story after dinner or at bedtime every night.
- Let your child choose a book. You can get your child to hold the book and help turn the pages.
- Use the rhythm of the book’s words to bounce your child on your knee, or pat your child on the back in time to the rhythm.
- Build on your child’s love for a favourite book by offering to read it regularly, as well as new or different books.
Here are some general tips for reading with most young children:
- Make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day.
- Have a special reading space – for example, a chair, lounge or beanbag. Make sure it’s big and comfortable enough for you and your child. A box of books or bookshelf nearby is good too.
- Turn off the TV or radio, put your phone on silent, and find a quiet space to read so your child can hear your voice and focus on the book.
- Hold your child close or on your knee while you read, so your child can see your face and the book.
- Point out the different parts of the book and name them, including the spine and front and back covers.
- Point to words as you read, or run your finger along under the words. Encourage your child to repeat familiar words or phrases.
- Slow down to give your child time to look at the pictures. Encourage your child to talk about the pictures.
- Try out funny noises and sounds, and use different voices for different characters – play and have fun!
- Be guided by your child’s interest. There’ll be days when children don’t want to spend a long time reading, and that’s OK.
Children often love to read the same book over and over. This might be a bit boring for you, but children enjoy learning the story and they look forward to what’s coming next.
What sorts of books to read with babies and toddlers
Young children often enjoy books that have good rhyme, rhythm and repetition – and this rhyming and repetition helps them learn. Also, your baby’s interests will guide you when you’re choosing new books. Your baby learns best when they’re interested in what you’re reading together.
Once your baby is about 12 months old, you could start looking for the following kinds of books:
- books about food, transport, animals and other babies and toddlers
- board books, which are easy to handle and very sturdy
- books that have pictures or illustrations of simple objects
- lift-the-flap books that have hidden items in each picture for your baby to find
- books that include textures like fabric or collage in the illustrations.
Book suggestions for babies and toddlers at 12-18 months
Here are some books your child might enjoy. Many of these books have the rhymes, rhythms and repetition that babies and toddlers love.
Books about animals
- Boo! by Margaret Wild
- Dear zoo by Rod Campbell
- Moo, baa, la la la by Sandra Boynton
- Spot by Eric Hill – for example, Spot goes on holiday and Spot goes to the farm
- Ten little owls by Renee Treml
- Toddlerobics animal fun by Zita Newcome
- Where is the green sheep? by Mem Fox
Books about babies
- Aussie babies can by Magabala Books
- Body: My first chunky board book by Dorling Kindersley
- I’m hungry by Rod Campbell
- Who? A celebration of babies by Robie Harris
Books about activities
- Choo choo clickety-clack by Margaret Mayo
- Dig dig digging by Margaret Mayo
- Freight train by Donald Crews
Why not visit your local library? It’s free to join and borrow. The staff there will be able to recommend books for you and baby to enjoy.
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’ and ‘The old lady and the mosquito’.