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How to Read to a Toddler

“My toddler won’t sit still for reading,” is a common lament. Or, “My child wants to turn the pages randomly, won’t listen to a story.” If you have trouble reading a book from start to finish with your 14-month old, don’t worry—you aren’t alone.

The most important goal in reading aloud is ensuring your child understands that books are wonderful objects, filled with worlds and information and friends and laughter and understanding and…in short, they’re better than television! Honest! No commercials, you can back up easily if you missed something, and you don’t have to TIVO to read what you want when you want. So here are a few tips for getting your young reader off on the right relationship with books.

  • Think interaction, not story line. Look for books rich in pictures and talk with your child about what he or she sees. What do they recognize? What can they find? Check out books by Richard Scarry and Peter Spier; during my son’s second year, we “read” Noah’s Ark every night for about 4 months. He loved hunting for the animals he knew and the expressions on the people’s faces. Then he switched to Busy, Busy World for another five months. He liked looking for specific things on each page like antennas, trucks, sinks, and puppies.
  • Rock. If you don’t have a rocking chair, consider looking for one. Extraverted children may indeed find it difficult to slow down to listen to a story, but the movement can help them relax until the magic of the words and pictures draws them in.
  • Embrace board books. This may seem obvious, but we kept board books on the lower shelves where our children could look at them any time and the “good” books up higher so we could supervise a bit more when they were being used. Children don’t like books with torn pages, even if they were the ones who tore them.
  • Welcome repetition. Many, many parents find that they can still recite all of Good Night, Moon (oh, the wonder of the sound combinations in that great little classic) and Green Eggs and Ham long after their children have gone off to college. Children whose parents weather the boredom of reading the same books over and over and over and over…usually become great readers. There is something magical to young ears about familiar tales. Don’t groan, don’t roll your eyes. Make yourself say, “Oh, Runaway Bunny! My favorite,” even if you are tempted to make a parody for YouTube.

Reading aloud helps all children, no matter their KidTelligent styles, discover the joys of reading. Do it well and you’ll be on your way to creating lifelong readers.

Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is http://www.edcoaching.com/