How to Introduce Toddlers and Babies to Books

Young children can only sit for a few minutes for a story, but as they grow, they will be able to sit longer. Let your child decide how much (or how little) time you spend reading. And you don’t need to read every page. You may find that your child has a favorite page or even a favorite picture. She may want to linger there for a while, and then switch books or activities. Babies may just want to mouth the book! That’s okay. When you let your child explore books in the ways that interest her, the reading experience will be more meaningful.
Talk or Sing About the Pictures
You do not have to read the words to tell a story. Try “reading” the pictures in a book for your child sometime. When your child is old enough, ask him to read the pictures to you!
Let Children Turn the Pages
Babies cannot yet turn pages on their own, but an 18-month-old will want to give it a try, and a 3-year-old can certainly do it alone. Remember, it’s OK to skip pages!
Show Children the Cover Page
Explain what the story is about. If you have an older toddler, ask them to guess what the story might be about.
Ask Questions About the Story, and Let Children Ask Questions Too!
Use the story to have a back-and-forth conversation with your child. Talk about familiar activities and objects you see in the illustrations or read about in the story.
Let Children Tell The Story
Children as young as 3 years old can memorize a story, and many children love to be creative through storytelling.
Create Books Together
Make photo books of family members. Cut pictures out of magazines or catalogs to make word books. Make a color book by having fun with crayons, markers, and paints. As your child gets older, have him or her dictate a story to you and then draw pictures to go with the words.
Make Books a Part of Your Daily Routine
The more that books are woven into children’s everyday lives, the more likely they will be to see reading as a pleasure and a gift.
• At Meal Times
Sing or read a story during a moment of quiet nursing or to gather the kids around the noisy breakfast table.
• In the Car or on the Bus
Keep a few books in the car or in your diaper bag to keep your little ones quiet and busy.
• At Child Care Drop Off
Calm a crying child at good-bye time with a favorite story or lullaby. Leave a photo book with pictures of loved family members at child care so your child can flip through it when she is missing you.
• At the Doctor’s Office
Read or tell a soothing story to your little one in the waiting room and sing or talk through the scary parts of the visit. Before the visit, read books about going to the doctor so your child knows what to expect.
• At the Grocery Store
Put a few board books in the shopping cart or tie a cloth book to the shopping cart so you’re not cleaning up books from the floor as you go!
• At Nap Time
Familiar routines always help babies calm down. Use books and stories to quietly ease your baby to sleep.
• At Day’s End
You are exhausted, the baby is fussy. Lie down on the floor surrounded by books. Play a book on tape for your baby. Sing a song together while you all try to relax a bit.
• At Bath Time
Plastic bath time books are great fun and may help a fussy baby enjoy the tub a little more.
• At Bed Time
Soothing books and stories can work magic with babies who fight sleep!

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