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Recommended reading Book sharing with toddlers Stages: 19 to 24 months

A toddler who has had books shared with them regularly will continue to enjoy this activity with an available adult. They may also pick up books independently, especially familiar books. Simple stories with bold, bright illustrations are likely to appeal to them.

By now they’re less interested in mouthing books, so books with paper pages can be used. The sound of ripping paper may still appeal to them, so touching precious or borrowed books might still need some adult supervision.

Toddlers are more able to follow a story now. Their interaction with books is more purposeful. They will enjoy opening flaps, pointing to pictures and trying to name the things they recognise or are interested in.

Books with repeating rhymes or phrases are likely to appeal, as are books that are about toddlers like them, who have similar experiences and issues.

Sharing books with toddlers is more about enjoying time together and building relationships than teaching a child to read. However, the repetition, the talking, and sharing words and pictures is all helping to build a rich vocabulary and lay the foundations of early reading skills they will use later on.

Sharing books with an active toddler may require finding somewhere comfortable, with limited distractions, to snuggle up together. Their attention span can be short, so allowing them to move around while the adult keeps reading might work for them — they may even come back, especially if the story sounds interesting.

With their growing sense of autonomy, a toddler may want to choose the book themselves. Encourage this — let them lead and go at their pace. Let them turn the pages while the big person talks about what the child is noticing or pointing at. These are all simple ways to increase a toddler’s feelings of independence and encourage their growing self-confidence.

Make book sharing part of a toddler’s day. They may have their favourite book or story and will enjoy having it shared over and over again. The sense of familiarity provided by repetition can be comforting, especially for a young child who lives in a stressful environment.

Book vocabulary is usually richer and more varied than normal conversation so this can be an enjoyable way to extend a child’s vocabulary. However, books don’t have to be read word-for-word. Talking about the pages or telling a story to go with the pictures can be just as valuable, especially for parents who may lack confidence in their own reading skills.

Toddlers will enjoy ‘finding’ things on a page, but it doesn’t always need to be a ‘20 questions’ exercise. Keeping it fun and non-stressful is the key. Using exaggeration, rhymes, funny noises and phrases that are repeated will usually do the trick.

Joining a local library will give regular access to a wide range of books and puzzles. Many libraries run ‘story time’ for pre-schoolers. Get to know local librarians, as they can be an excellent resource.

Further information

  • Toddler reading time

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