Tips to Read to Your Toddler

Planning to introduce books to your toddler? Wondering how to read to her? Here are some tips.

By Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj

Tips to Read to Your Toddler

Planning to introduce books to your toddler? Wondering how to read to her? Here are some tips.

I still remember how my dad read aloud a poem to me when I was a kindergartner, sitting on our terrace and pointing to the sky. Up and down he bounced on his cushioned chair, all the while swaying his arms and reciting, ‘Oh, my, my! Tell me, why? Birdies fly, in the sky?’ That was decades ago; but, the memory is still fresh. And, it set me off on my lifelong romance with books. That’s what books and reading can do to a child – make an indelible mark in her mind. So, it’s very important how you read to your little one. Mere mumbling of words will have no effect. You need to be committed and creative while you read, so that you will not only leave a lasting impression on her but also encourage her to read on her own soon. So, let’s enter the magical world of reading. Here are some tips to start off.

Before reading:

1. Choose the right time: Snuggle up close to your child with a book on your lap when there are no distractions. Choose a quiet time. Remember, toddlers’ attention tends to get diverted easily. So, choose a time when you would be free of chores and commitments. Bedtime would be ideal; so too would be early or late afternoons.

2. Choose the right book: Ensure the book you select for the reading session with your child isn’t too bulky. It would become unwieldy for the child if he wants to hold it or examine it. Choose a book with a lot of pictures. Even pop-ups should be great. These days, when it comes to children’s books there is a lot of choice – board books, floatable bath-tub books, books with embedded or engraved figures, and so on. Also, make sure the contents of the book would interest your little one.

3. Choose the right setting: Sitting amidst clutter to read with your little one will get you nowhere. It will take away the pleasure from reading. Ideal places would be on a cosy couch or the bed with cushions propped all around or even a bay-window. The right ambience will set the tone for reading. So, pay attention to it.

4. Choose the right duration: Do not go on and on with your read. Your child will get bored and distracted. Bear in mind that the little one’s attention span is very limited. So, don’t burden her. Otherwise, what should be a pleasant activity will turn out to be a tedious one.

While reading:

1. Arouse the tactile sense: To begin with, encourage your little one to explore the book. Let her touch and feel it. Allow her to turn the pages and feel the texture. In case you are worried that the pages might get torn, go in for board books, which are quite sturdy (they would withstand your toddler’s assault, if any!).

2. Awaken the visual sense: Before you start reading, let your child go through the pictures in the book and gaze at them. His oohs and aahs would surely delight you. Also, this visual treat will serve as a perfect prelude to the reading session. Remember, toddlers relate more to pictures than to the letters. So, let your child admire and enjoy the colourful illustrations first. While reading, you can also use props to narrate the story – puppets, dolls, and so on.

3. Appeal to the auditory sense: When you read, point to the images. This will reinforce what she saw earlier. Then, read aloud slowly. If you race, your toddler will be baffled. Use appropriate pauses and voice modulation as you read. You can also use as much drama and theatrics into the read as possible. This will not only hold her attention but also help her to associate the words with the variations in your tone and body language. This association will help her comprehend and make sense of what you read. You can also read in a sing-song voice. Your toddler will relate better to it. On the whole, ensure that you make the story come alive. That’s the very purpose of reading aloud to your little one.

4. Address the cognitive domain: Encourage your child to ask questions either in between or after the read. You can also punctuate your read with questions such as, ‘What do you think will happen next?’ ‘Now, why did the baby bear cry?’ and so on. Such questioning will help your child’s cognitive development. He will start early on with logical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving. It will also trigger his imagination and fire up his creativity.

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents," said Emilie Buchwald, the author of award-winning children’s novels. Draw inspiration from her words and make sure your toddler explores the joyful world of reading.