Reading aloud and sharing stories with your child is one of the most important and enjoyable things you can do together. If you’re not sure what or how to start reading with your toddler, here are some ideas.
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!
What to read with your toddler
There are so many books to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start.
As a broad rule, 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 and you can also check the availability of these books from the National Library:
The Teddy Potty Book: Say Goodbye to Diapers: Introducing
Potty Training by Margot Channing
Rumble in the jungle by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz
Time for bed by Mem Fox
The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle
The wheels on the bus: a lift-the-flap, sing-along book by Richard Merrit
I went walking by Sue Williams
Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Each peach, pear, plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Baby Hugs: A Cuddle Book of Hugs by Genine Delahaye
The Hairy Maclary collection by Lynley Dodd
Hairy Maclary's Caterwaul Caper
Why not visit your library? It’s free to join and borrow. The staff will be able to recommend books for you and your child to enjoy.
Video: Telling stories with children
Watch this video to learn about the importance of storytelling, and how you can get your child involved in the stories that you tell.