Why reading with toddlers is important
Sharing stories, talking and singing every day helps your child’s development in many ways.
You’re getting your child familiar with sounds, words, language, print and, eventually, the value and joy of books. This builds your child’s early literacy skills, including the ability to focus, and helps your child go on to read successfully later in childhood.
Reading stories stimulates your child’s imagination and helps your child learn about the world. For example, reading books can help your child learn about and feel respect for other cultures. Reading also develops your child’s social skills and skills for managing emotions.
And reading together creates a precious time for bonding with your child.
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 toddlers
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 child make the most of book time:
- Help your child choose a book, then ask your child to hold the book and turn the pages.
- Get your child to fill in the words in a story they know. Also try pausing and letting your child finish sentences for you.
- Ask your toddler to name things in the pictures.
- Ask your toddler to describe actions in the book. For example, ‘What is the cow doing?’ or ‘What sound is the dog making?’
- 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.
- 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.
- Make reading and storytelling relaxed and fun so that your child looks forward to it. There’ll be days when children don’t want to spend a long time reading, and that’s OK. Just be guided by your child’s interest.
- Turn off the TV or radio, put your phone on silent, 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 your child can see your face and the book.
- Repeat familiar words or passages. Try out funny noises and sounds – play and have fun!
- If your child wants to, let them choose the books. Be prepared to read your child’s favourite books over and over again!
Ebooks can be handy, especially if you’re travelling or away from home. If your child wants to read ebooks, share them with your child and choose stories without distracting animations or games. Ebooks shouldn’t replace paper books. It’s important to balance screen time with other activities.
What sorts of books to read with toddlers
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 can keep your child engaged. Books that you can read in 4-5 minutes are usually a good length for toddlers.
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.
Book suggestions for toddlers
Below are some great books for toddlers. Many of these books have the rhymes, rhythms and repetition that toddlers love.
Books about animals
- A is for Australian animals by Frane Lessac
- Crocodile beat by Gail Jorgensen and Patricia Mullins
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
- The Hairy Maclary collection by Lynley Dodd
- Pig the pug series by Aaron Blabey
- Rumble in the jungle pop-up book by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz
- The very cranky bear series by Nick Bland
- The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle
Books about transport
- The wheels on the bus by Penny Dann
- Want to play trucks? by Ann Stott
Books about a child’s world
- Each peach, pear, plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
- I went walking by Sue Williams
- The whose … series by Jeanette Rowe, which includes Whose baby? and Whose nose?
- Why I love Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft
Books about daily life
- Cuddle time by Libby Gleeson
- On your potty by Virginia Miller
- Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
- Ten little fingers and ten little toes by Mem Fox
- Time for bed by Mem Fox
- What colour are your knickers by Sam Lloyd
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.