Even though they may not understand what you’re saying, reading is an important part of young children’s brain development. When you read to infants and toddlers, it helps them learn about speech patterns and beginning language skills while also giving them the foundation they need to enjoy reading throughout their lives. In Time for a Story, Amy Brooks Read and Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting provide some great information about sharing books with young children, including the following strategies for reading with infants and toddlers: 

Reading with Infants

The ideal way to read with infants is to do it one-on-one with the child in your lap looking at the book with you. However, this can be difficult to accomplish when you have a class full of infants. When you don’t have time to read with children individually, try laying a book on the floor and facing the infants while you’re reading. This will allow you to see where the infants are looking and follow their interests, even though the text will be upside down for you. Here are a few other helpful tips about reading with infants: 

  • Pick times of day when children are rested, and be sure to choose books about things that children are familiar with.
  • Allow the infants to pat and chew on the books.
  • Repeat simple books, songs, and rhymes, and read them in a high-pitched voice to get children’s attention.
  • Say words slowly and clearly, and point out words in the book.
  • As you read, be sure to also look at and talk about the pictures.
  • Give children time to respond to the reading or pictures or to imitate you, even if they are not verbal yet.

Reading with Toddlers

Once young children are mobile, getting them to sit down and listen to a story can be challenging. Make sure participation is always voluntary, but keep in mind that toddlers will most likely move to your reading area once they hear the opening song they associate with reading books. Even if children don’t join you then, you’ll have an audience once you start reading, especially if you follow these helpful tips about reading with toddlers:

  • Show enthusiasm and excitement about reading—your excitement will be contagious to toddlers.
  • Repeat favorite books, stories, and songs, and allow toddlers to turn pages and pick books for you to read.
  • Use your voice; make animal sounds; change your pitch; give characters different voices; incorporate a lot of repetitive sounds, words, rhymes, and gestures; and vary your speed and volume as you read.
  • Make sure you allow children time to repeat words or short phrases, and encourage them to make sounds when looking at the pictures.
  • Remember to choose books about things toddlers are interested in and about familiar objects and subjects, such as family, food, and toys. Be sure to have a variety of books available to read to children.
  • Tell stories to toddlers, and encourage them to tell you stories in return.

Which of these strategies is most important when sharing books with infants and toddlers? Tell us your opinion in the comment section below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages!