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3 Strategies to Help Your Toddler Get Ready to Read

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

If you haven't begun reading to your toddler, there is no better time than now. There are layers upon layers of benefits that the habit of reading to your toddler can give your child. Start with that.

When your child is aged 1-3 years, their brain is wired to absorb and learn from their environment. They become mimics and are walking, talking sponges who are willing to put themselves at risk, experimenting and learning from the world around them.

There is no better age to instill the love for reading than at this age. Reading to your child is the absolute key and making it pleasurable with a cuddle and kiss reinforces the pleasure that books can bring to their whole being. But what else can you be doing during this critical developmental stage to help your toddler be ready to read?

Strategy 1: Have Books At Hand

Have attractive books (lots of images, colourful) ready at hand and accessible to your toddler on a low book shelf. Whenever the urge to look at pictures or thumb through a book gets them, they can independently access the book of their choice without needing to ask for an adult to help. This increases the time they spend with books, aside from when an adult is reading to them. It also encourages self-autonomy in which book they decide to pick up, what they absorb and how long they decide to spend with it.

Strategy 2: Test What Works

Many toddlers may not have the attention span to sit through an entire book with you. Worry not. They may not be used to sitting with you for longer periods if reading with you has not been a habit (yet). You may also have an active, kinesthetic child who needs to move in order to learn and process their world. Read a page or two a day to begin with. Over time, their attention span may increase and you can get through more with them. Look through the pictures quickly with them and give them the gist of the book instead of reading verbatim. The key here is exposure to books and to different stories that might pique their interest.

Test out what works for them by buying different book formats. Lift the flap books and pop up books are attractive to children and provide an element of interaction to keep them busy and interested. It is OK if you find that they destroy the flaps/pop-ups over time - this means they have been interacting with the book, which is positive. My daughter had a pop-up book about a young girl learning ballet and after several months, some of the pop ups were torn or didn't work anymore, but the pleasure she got out of the book was immense. You can even have them interact with a waterproof book during bath times or cloth books, if they aren't strong enough to manage board books as yet...just to keep them surrounded by books.

If you're struggling to find a way to get your child interested, try audiobooks during car rides or quiet moments at home. Audiobooks are as if a child is being read to and has similar benefits. Audiobooks are great if you're a busy parent and don't have time to consistently spend with your child. has children's books listed by age group. If you want to access the world's top book website for a wide variety, try Amazon's . If you have Google Home or Alexa at home, install story-telling applications where your child can request for stories by voice. The reason audiobooks are preferred over YouTube or movies? They engage the child's imagination without spoon-feeding them images. They also tend to use English in its proper form.

Strategy 3: For Children Not Able to Speak Yet

To encourage your child to be able to speak, let alone read a book aloud to you, can sometimes be a difficult ask for a toddler. Toddlers in homes where more than one language is spoken are often times slower to respond with speech than some others are. But of course, there could be various reasons for a child to stay quiet, even when there is only one language spoken at home.

We experience something similar to children when we try to learn a new language. Understanding comes first, but it takes more brain and vocal coordination to be able to spit out the right words at the right time. Often times it may be the lack of vocabulary that inhibits us from saying what we mean and often times as well, we may lack the confidence to string a sentence together.

Either way, we must be empathetic and not get frustrated with children who are a little slower with their speech. Just know, that it s more than likely that there is a lot of processing going on internally than they are able to let on. So what can we do to encourage them to speak out? We need to regularly speak to them. Describe things to them, label objects, ask them questions (even if you can't expect a response yet) as they may feel more compelled to respond in that moment. By speaking to your child regularly you are providing them with the vocabulary and tools to eventually be able to communicate themselves.

Another great way to learn vocabulary is through song. Nursery rhymes and other age appropriate music are exceptional at enabling a child to remember not only the tune, but the words to the song. Try learning a nursery rhyme together and once you are sure they know it, drop the last word and see if they respond by saying/singing the word back to you.

While reading together, ask them to label a picture that you point out to them, for instance, they could try and name an animal that they see in a book. Encourage their responses with positive reinforcement; a hug and kiss. This will help to give them more confidence to respond further to you. They love seeing your positive reaction and feeling the love in the room when they try to respond to you.

While audiobooks are also good, nothing beats your personal involvement in getting children to understand language as only you as a parent can do, especially at the toddler phase. Being physically present, providing the positive reinforcement of touch, being able to navigate their gaze to the right object/point on the book at the right time, the inflex and intonation of your familiar voice adds so much to the overall experience of being read to. It is you the parent that can bring that level of context and understanding to language that children can absorb best, through your loving encouragement, intuitive understanding of their needs and your inextinguishable fuel to guide their learning experience.

Please watch out for my next post where I will be talking about ways to improve how you read to your child for their maximum benefit.

Happy reading!

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