It can be hard to read to a toddler who isn’t that interested in what you’re reading. Sometimes my little two year old will be glued to the page, but others the attention span just isn’t there. Still, it’s worth persevering, because there are some amazing benefits of reading to toddlers, from learning language and vocabulary to reducing stress. Even though your toddler may not talk to you in full sentences (or even in real words most of the time) this doesn’t mean that they’re not soaking it all in. In fact, the best way to increase speech and language in young children is simply talking to them as much as possible – and reading a book qualifies!
Tips for Choosing a Good Book for Toddlers
It helps to choose the right book. We all know that picking up Lord of the Rings is not going to keep a toddler interested for more than half a second and unlikely to be processed. You want to pick books that are:
- Age appropriate with themes they can understand and process
- Repetitive phrases or words that will be memorable
- Large letters that they can attempt to follow
- Illustrations that hold their interest and reflect the story
- The right length to keep them engaged
Pre-school books usually have simple language, easy concepts to grasp and often rhyme or have a good rhythm to reading them as this helps children remember words better. If you find your child is particularly interested in a series, character or theme such as dinosaurs or “Hey Duggee” (William likes Hey Duggee so much we’ve even got the pyjamas!), then this can encourage them to concentrate more as they’re really interested in the content.
I’ve compiled a few lists of books that are excellent for toddlers around certain themes including:
- Top 10 Christmas Books for 1 – 5 years old
- Top 10 Easter Books for Toddlers and Pre-schoolers
- Top 10 Mother’s Day Themed Books for young children
- Top 10 Halloween Books for young children to read
10 Benefits of Reading to Toddlers
Now we’ve discussed how to choose a good book for toddlers and I’ve given you some suggestions for themed stories, let’s look at the benefits of reading to young children, from babies on!
1. Improves Reading Skills
This is the obvious take but I think is worth remembering. Children don’t need to have formal classes or studies to improve their reading skill. You don’t need to actively be teaching them for them to absorb. Although your baby or toddler may not be at the level they could read yet, you’ll be surprised how early they may begin to recognize shapes that form letters that go on to form words. Having a good foundation and familiarity with the concept of letters, words, books and reading will give them a head-start when they go to school and begin to officially learn to read
2. Improves Speech and Vocabulary
Even if they are not reading the words on the page, they are hearing them spoken. The best way to teach young children new words is to speak to them. As William is officially speech delayed, I’ve had quite a lot of experience with talking to health professionals about how to encourage young children to speak and the advice I get again and again is simply – say a lot of words to him. Talk to them about everything and anything, and reading will help you find something to talk about that doesn’t make you feel like a bit of a weirdo. I often feel like I’m talking to myself, but it does go in (or so I’m told!)
Since books are aimed at a young level, the vocabulary they use will be an excellent start for first words and using books with large pictures will help associate the correct word with different objects. Flash cards are also ideal for this, and you can use flash cards in conjunction with books to tell a story. We have a favourite book called Millions of Cats and using the flash card for cat when the story talks about the cats has really helped William say that word. Some children can really benefit from this extra re-enforcement, especially those who are struggling a little with their early words like my son.
I’ve put together sets of over 100 printable flash cards that are completely free to download and that you can then print at home.
3. Boosts Brain Development
Taking in new words, thinking about ideas, looking at pictures, listening to your voice with different inflections to usual, these things can all help boost development. We know that children who start reading early can find it easier in school in all areas, including subjects like Maths and Science
4. Develops Empathy and Understanding
Books can help develop early levels of empathy and understanding. You might wonder what a toddler can pick up if they don’t fully understand most of the words – but toddlers can be very empathetic at times (although ruthless at others!) and can learn from pictures as well as from your tone of voice.
5. Enhances Concentration Levels
My toddlers attention span is gone in the time it takes to blink, but by introducing books at an early age, you can increase this attention span and help improve concentration levels. Giving them something interesting to concentrate on will help, just count the increase in seconds at first!
6. Encourages Independent Thinking and Asking Questions
You might be sick of being asked “why, why, why…” but by encouraging our pre-schoolers to think about things and ask a question (even if it’s a really annoying one!) we really challenge their analytical skills and help them learn.
7. Develops Imagination and Creativity
This ties in with the importance of role play and imaginative play in the development of toddlers, pre-schoolers and young children. Reading books helps stimulate and develop the imagination and creativity, which will have an impact on other areas such as role play and arts and crafts. By opening little minds to the possibility of interesting ideas and strange new worlds, we’re giving them the opportunity to dream big and strive for success too! It sounds a little far fetched by it all ties together, and imagination is a critical part of child development.
8. Will Help at School
Statistics show that children who are good readers will naturally perform better at school, and that those who start reading at a young age have a head start over their peers. It’s not a critical thing and don’t worry if your child doesn’t take to reading, as it doesn’t mean they will be behind, but as a mum I always try to give him whatever advantages I can. If it turns out that he’s not a natural reader and needs a little more help at school then I’ll be there to give it, but there’s no doubt in my mind that reading a book every day together will help him at school.
9. Helps Create a Healthy Routine
Bath, book and bed is an easy to remember, simple routine that can really help settle a young child down. Having a good routine helps children to process things and can really help the whole family get a good night’s sleep. By introducing a book as part of the bedtime routine, you not only have all of the above benefits, but you help a child get into a healthy routine for going to bed and getting a good night’s sleep.
Warning though, you’ll soon have them asking for a second, third and maybe even a fourth book before bed as they learn to love the stories you are reading and they try to sneak an extra one before sleep!
10. Helps Strengthen Bonds Between You
Finally, reading to our children helps create bonds and strengthen relationships. This is an ideal time to have them sitting close, snuggling up next to us in bed, sitting on our laps in a chair, or just nestled next to us on the sofa. It creates a time when their attention is focused on you and the things you are saying and gives you an opportunity to have some quality one on one time.
Bonus reason – it’s fun! Ultimately, reading with your kids is a fun activity that can be done anywhere, any time, no matter what the weather or how much spare time you have. When you combine that with all of the above amazing reasons, you can see why it’s such a good idea to read at least one book a day with your toddler!
Win a 30 book Boxset with an RRP of £149.70
I’m running a competition to win an amazing start to your child’s reading. This 30 book collection by Ladybird includes four different levels so your child can advance their reading skills slowly, and feel a sense of accomplishment and progression. It includes a mix of classics like Peter Rabbit, The Ugly Duckling and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and more modern titles that tie in with well known media characters such as Peppa Pig, Kung-Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon. It’s a boxset that can be shared amongst families and friends, well read and treasured. And one of my readers is going to receive it completely free!
Just let me know in the comments your favourite children’s book!