By Eileen Nelson, M.A.
Early Childhood Specialist
Minnesota Department of Education
Reading to your toddler is not only fun but an investment in your toddler's healthy development. Both you and your toddler experience important benefits from a regular reading time together.
Reading together gives you insight into your child's developing interests. Is your toddler excited by books about trucks or bunnies or both? Does she want to name everything in the picture?
Enjoy time together with a book so your toddler is excited by books. This is solid preparation for a lifetime of reading.
Ensure that television isn't monopolizing your toddler's time. Your toddler needs plenty of time to be physically active and to spend time enjoying books.
Read together everyday. If you read to your toddler when he or she was an infant, a regular schedule will help your toddler anticipate your time together and enjoy the experience.
Share your lap or snuggle close with your toddler while you read. This helps to make reading a pleasurable and fun experience for both you and your child.
Your toddler is no longer a baby. Expect to see a need for independence alternate with a need for security. Support this development by offering several books as choices but be prepared to read the same book over and over again. Toddlers love repetition.
Action is often a toddler's middle name. This can make reading together a little harder but don't be discouraged. Choose times to read when your toddler is relaxed, in the evening and before or after a nap. Also seize brief moments to explore a few pages when waiting at the doctor's office or at a restaurant. This can also be a good time to introduce a new book in order to capture your toddler's attention. Toddlers also may prefer to stand sometimes when sharing a book.
Go beyond the story in the book. Point to the pictures and name the animals, colors and plants. If there are monkeys in the pictures count them together, showing the quantity with your fingers. Pointing things out, asking questions and talking about what happens in a story is an important way to improve your toddler's vocabulary.
Select some nonfiction books to share with your toddler. Books with colorful nature photographs, people in action or new places can teach a toddler a lot about the world.
Visit your library together. Find out if the library offers toddler story hour or has recommended titles. Introduce your toddler to the library as a lifelong resource.