Developing the Joy of Reading with Babies and Toddlers

Developing the Joy of Reading with Babies and Toddlers

This week we’ve been celebrating Read Across America Week – a week to celebrate reading and today, I am so excited to share a post on Developing the Joy of Reading with Babies and Toddlers! We all know time spent reading with your child is special and will benefit them greatly. The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Literacy Promotion recommends reading to your babies as early as possible because of the multitude of benefits, such as better language skills, increased vocabulary, greater interest in reading, and the development of reading and eventually writing. Interactions made during reading time also creates a strong relationship that impacts cognitive, social-emotional, and language development. 

I love reading with my little girl and over the years, have learned so much that I wanted to share that will hopefully help you all bring the magic of books into your homes too! I’m specifically focusing reading with babies and toddlers in this post.

Reading Tips (Babies and Toddlers)

It is never too early to start reading with your baby. Make reading part of your child’s daily routine. Read to them at least once a day, every day. This time should be free of distractions (no phones and no TV). Find a comfortable spot to share a book with your little one. Our favorite reading space is our living room couch, my daughter and I love to cuddle up together with a good book. 

Reading with your child is different over the various ages. Babies may only focus for a few minutes and explore the book by patting the images, reaching out for the book, or even try biting the book. When sharing books with your baby, you can point to, name, and act out images (use your hands and face; be expressive!). You can also help your baby turn the pages. 

Toddlerhood is when your child will want to be more independent and you can encourage that by allowing them to choose the book they want to read. Warning! It may be the same book you’ve read several times over the week. Try to be positive with their choice. Let them hold the book and turn the pages as you read to them. Toddlers may point to pictures, act out animal sounds, repeat words you say, and eventually start asking you questions about the book. When reading to your toddler, read slowly so they can grasp the story and also be expressive. 

Try out different voices for different characters in the book. I sometimes reenact the facial expression of a character. If your toddler has become familiar with a book or if there is a repetitive line, they may want to finish the sentence. Take a moment and give them a chance to do so. Talk to them about the images in the book and ask them to name things you are pointing to. Say some words about the images and act out actions (say “see her smiling,” then smile yourself). Ask open-ended questions about the book, for example: “What do you think is going to happen next?” What do you think this book is about?” As children get older and their vocabulary expands, you can enjoy more of a conversation when sharing a book together.

Another thing to keep in mind is to have books readily available. When my daughter was a baby, I kept soft/cloth books in the mix of all her toys, so that she could crawl and reach out to them. As a toddler, I have a basket on the floor filled with some of her books and others are on a low shelf so that she can pick them out on her own. Make sure any shelves that your child has access to are secured so that they do not tip/fall over. I also always have at least one book for her in my purse, for when we run an errand or travel. 

Building a Home Library

Based on your child’s age, keep in mind: length of the story, the number of words and illustrations in the book, and the sturdiness/durability of books. Board books are great. 

Books can provide so many teachable moments, such as counting, naming animals, colors, shapes, and repetitive words/sayings. You can describe and talk about the images as well as an introduction to new words, objects, feelings, and situations they may not see on a daily basis.

Think about what values you want to share with your little one and find books that reflect that. There are all sorts of books that promote diversity and inclusivity, explore different cultures, families, and identities, show kindness, respect, perseverance, and empathy, and books that are empowering and inspiring. 

Pick and read a variety of books – ones with whimsical animal characters, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and non-fiction topics. When your child is showing interest in a specific topic, you can also help them find books on that. 

Building a home library can be expensive. Some ways I’ve budgeted on creating our home library is waiting to get books on sale and getting them second hand. Another alternative is book swapping with family and friends. We also keep books on our daughter’s wish lists for birthdays and holidays. I also love the idea of a ‘please bring a book instead of a card’ request for baby showers. Libraries are also a great resource for books. If you can, get a library membership. We have been able to get our library books contact-free during the pandemic. 

Finally, remember to have a good time. Let your child see that reading is fun! Hope this helps you form a love of reading with your littles.

Disclaimer: The content discussed is for informational and educational purposes and not medical advice. 

Written by Contributor, Pediatrician and Mom, Sona Patel.  You can follow Sona on IG  @sona_sparkles for more kid lit resources, activities and crafts.

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