Raising Readers: Tips for reading with a toddler
Until Alfie was about 20 months old I’d have described him as a bookworm. His first choice of toy was always a book and he would happily have sat for three quarters of an hour while we read story after story.
Then something changed.
One day he had less time for reading, in fact he had no time for anything that wasn’t tearing around the garden! It seemed he tossed away every book I offered to him. I was horrified! What had happened to our cosy mornings reading our favourite books? Did this mean that he’d never be a bookworm again?
Of course not! It just meant that reading time needed to accommodate him a little more. I found a few things that helped us reconnect with out love of reading.
1. Understand their natural development.
Children often lose interest in books as they turn 18 months. This is because they have a natural interest in gross motor activities and are hard wired to spend as much time running around as they can.
You can’t fight that urge! It’s too strong!
However, even the most active toddlers will have moments during the day when they want to be quiet, and that might only be at bed time. Watch for these moments and bring out the books! For us quiet times were after breakfast, occasionally mid-afternoon and always before bed, I squeezed every reading second out of those times that I could!
2. Choose the Right Book
I noticed that during his ‘I don’t like books’ phase Alfie was most interested in books with real life photographs and in naming things. I reluctantly moved away from our beautifully and artistically illustrated story books and incorporated photographic fact books.
This new interest in naming things was partly down to his ‘Language Explosion’ and partly down to wanting to equip himself for the world he was increasingly exploring. During that phase all he wanted was to learn as many new words as he could.
Other types of book to try;
- Books with photographs – with lots of discussion and made up stories
- Books without words – lets children direct the story
- Poetry books – shorter texts for bite size sessions
- Journals or guide books – Alfie is really into farming so we read the farming journal sometimes
Now at 26 months we are back reading story books and once more he prefers illustrations over photographs.
3. Show them that you read
Think about how often your child sees you reading actual books, I was surprised by how infrequently it was! Despite my own love of reading I rarely sat down while Alfie was awake to read a book.
Instead of flicking through my phone when I had a spare second I read a page or two of a novel. When I started showing Alfie that I was reading too and that reading was a priority in our home I noticed an immediate increase in his interest.
4. Create Book Nooks
Books are a permanent feature of his bedroom and playroom but aren’t always readily available in other parts of the house. I put books anywhere that we spent time! I added children’s cookbooks to our kitchen, I put a basket of books on the landing, I slipped one or two into our garden trug and stashed them anywhere else I could think of.
Obviously these didn’t result in long reading sessions but they did offer us many more chances to read and we could carve out an extra 10 minutes reading time every day.
I also leave books open on our lunch table and this almost guarantees curiosity and a story time.
5. Guerrilla Reading
Sometimes your child may be more inclined to read when they’re out and about. We used to bring our books to a local cafe and enjoy a wee bun and a book. Could you try a book picnic? Or a book swap with friends?
Don’t forget to visit the library often, letting your children have control over the book bag will certainly make them more interested in their books and most libraries have story times and other events that make reading new and fresh.
Even if your toddler decides reading is not a priority keep offering them books! If they jump up halfway through the story then keep reading it until it’s finished, laughing out loud at the funny bits or making comments about interesting bits. Set a story time for a likely moment and look through the books alone if you must.
Whatever you do…just keep reading!