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  • Writer's pictureStaci Henderson

Tips for Getting Toddlers Engaged in Books

We have all heard about the importance of reading with our young children. Reading is important for a variety of reasons: it is a great way to increase vocabulary, it lays the foundation for reading and writing skills, and it helps the mind grow and develop. Not to mention its a great way to snuggle and connect with your child! As a pediatric speech therapist, I often get asked, "I know reading is important , but what can I do if he isn't interested in books and wont sit still to read with me?" Here are my proven tips to get your toddler to engage with books and develop a love of reading.

First, choose the right kind of book for your toddler. Here are some things that I look for in a great book:

1. Simple, repetitive text: You don't want books that are too complicated, have too much text, or aren't easy for the child to 'help' read. Toddlers love repetition and will often gravitate to simple, familiar books that have familiar phrases/words that are repeated.

Examples of simple books would be :Brown Bear/Polar Bear series by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Brown, and Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton.

2. Books with bright, engaging pictures of people (especially children), animals, everyday objects and activities (such as bathtime, bedtime and eating). You can find books with realistic pictures and or photographs as well if you child prefers real pictures.

Examples of these books would include: My First Words books, Daddy Loves Me by DK Publishing and How many kisses do you want tonight? By Varsha Bajaj

3. Interactive Books. Young children and short attention spans go hand-in-hand. So books with interactive things to touch, or do are always good to have. Examples are books with lift-a-flaps, buttons to push for sound, and touch/feel books. These are wonderful for keeping your child engaged.

Examples are: Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings by Matthew Van Fleet, Where is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz

Now that you have chosen some great books, here are some ideas for reading with toddlers:

- Get face to face. An important part of reading with your child is sitting together and seeing each other's faces. You can both lie on the floor on your stomach with the book out in front, or sit beside each other, or choose times like bathtime or at the table after mealtimes to incorporate reading time with your toddler.

- Listen and let your child 'read' the book his way. Storytime is a time for conversation, not just sitting and listening. Let him choose a book, turn the pages and point to what he finds interesting.

- Follow your child's lead. You don't have to always start at the beginning, or read the whole book; find what pages are most interesting to your child and start there!

- Use the Four S's:

Say Less: It's better to say less when reading with a toddler. Use familiar vocabulary and shorter sentences to help them learn.

Stress: Stress important and interesting words and add sound effects that your child will enjoy, like animal and car sounds.

Go Slow: tell the story at a slower pace- it gives him time to take a turn. Pause frequently to see if they want to share/talk about the book.

Show: Show your child what the words mean by using actions and gestures. For example, if you are reading a story that has a ball in it, have a ball beside you and roll the ball to your child.

One more tip: Don't forget about the library! Our local library has a wonderful toddler section that has many board books to check out. And you can find seasonal books, or books that have themes that are appealing to your child. Hope these tips help you and your child enjoy books and learning together. For a list of my absolute favorite books that I use to increase language with the children I work with, contact me through my website at or email me at

Happy Reading!

Resources: It Takes Two to Talk, The Hanen Centre


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