How To Read To Busy Babies And Toddlers

As a speech-language pathologist working with families of young children I am constantly asked about book reading.  We have all heard that reading to babies is very important but sometimes it can be challenging to read to those squirmy little ones!  I can relate to these challenges as a professional, having read to hundreds of different children, and as a parent of two very active kids!

It can be frustrating for even the most well-intentioned parent to keep reading to their child when they seem to be ‘uninterested’ in staying put for the story. Let me begin by saying I understand these frustrations, but I would like to share a few things that highlight why it’s important to keep reading!

• Early language and literacy development begins in the first few years of life

• A child’s early literacy skills develop through regular daily positive interactions with literacy materials and the adults in their lives

• Strong early literacy skills are related to later literacy skills in school

As a professional in speech and language development I have lots of tips and tricks up my sleeve to make book reading enjoyable for ALL kids.  Today I will share my top 5 to hopefully help you inspire a love of literacy in your child at home.

1) No rules!

The most important thing about reading at this age is to develop a love of books. The best way to do this is to follow your child’s lead instead of directing how the book should be read. It’s ok to skip pages, start in the middle, go back and re-read the same parts over and over again! If your child is allowed to ‘read’ books the way they prefer they will want to stay reading with you longer, which is what we want!

2) Multi-sensory experience

The world is so new to young babies and toddlers. They enjoy to see, touch, taste and hear as they get to know the world around them and book reading is no exception. Having books available that provide a multi-sensory experience (e.g., make noises, have different textures, bright pictures, etc.) capitalizes on this desire to explore and makes a book more fun.

3) Be face-to-face

When you are face-to-face you can see your child’s facial expressions easily so you can better judge when they want to turn pages, repeat actions and noises, reread the same page or switch books. Being face-to-face also allows you to more easily see what your child is looking at and interested in so you can make comments about these interests. All of which will encourage your child to stay engaged in book reading activities longer.

4) Use your voice to make it fun!

The way a book is read is one of the most important things to keeping a child interested. Reading with expression, by having your voice go up and down, louder or softer, helps bring the book to life. Adding sounds or voices that go along with the pictures also makes the book more engaging and children will very quickly want to repeat those funny sounds over and over again.

5) Don’t read the words

Keeping language simple when reading is important for young children who have very short attention spans. Don’t worry about what the text says on the page. Making simple comments about what is happening in the pictures ensures an appropriate language level and helps makes word learning easier.

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