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.

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, 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!
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 to read with your toddler

There are so many books to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start.

In general, 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 Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  • 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.

For more story ideas, 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 the animals’.