You’re at the park and you see an adorable toddler sitting on the grass clinging desperately to a book while wearing a bright smile. And instantly you’re envious as you watch your own child eating sand from the nearby sandbox. Okay, obviously I’m jesting. There’s no judgment here. We’ve all had our fair share of sand at one time or another—well read or not!
But the question of the day is have you ever wondered how to encourage a love of literature in your toddler? There’s hope! And it is so easy to do. It all begins with a few simple steps mixed in with some dedication and repetition. And if you’ve already passed by a few of the stages—don’t worry! You can always catch up.
Before we go any further, I do have to say that there is no sure-fire way to guarantee your child will love books. They are as individual as the plethora of options available to them at their local library. However, if you start implementing the techniques outlined below, it is sure to help you to [hopefully] shape a devoted reader.
Would you believe that it can begin prior to birth? Many women (and their partners) start reading to their child before they ever enter the world. I used to love reading to my pregnant belly. It is a wonderful bonding moment. To this day, my husbands swears that our daughter instantly knew my voice the moment she heard it. Whether that is true or not, I can’t quite say. I was still a bit groggy from the surgery. But it definitely makes me smile at the thought.
It is never too early to offer your child books, even in infancy. Cloth books are the perfect choice for this stage. Are they reading them? No. More than likely they are spitting up on them. But they are still books that you can read to them. Show them the pictures. Point out objects and use descriptive words.
Before you know it, your child will be ready for board books, which will occasionally be used as teethers. Again you might have to wipe away the spit, but it will be worth it! Ask them questions—even if they’re too young to answer them. Someday, they won’t be!
Talk to Your Child
Carry on conversations. Treat them with respect and talk to them intelligently. Your use of words will help them to expand their own vocabulary and comprehension. Cooking dinner? What a great time to put your child in the high chair and carry on a conversation about what you’re doing in the kitchen. For example, name the items you’re preparing or using. It’s all about introducing your child to new words—and being repetitive! This step can be done anywhere, at any time. Remember, this isn’t baby talk! This is conversation. Albeit, at this early stage it is still one-sided.
Continue reading to your child daily. By now you should have moved on to picture books or early readers. Use your finger to point to the words as you read so they can relate the sound and sight of the word.
Toddlers love to mimic! If they see you reading, they are more likely to pick up a book and start “reading” also. It’s quite possible they’ve memorized their favorite short story by this time. That’s okay! Let them feel like a big girl or boy as they read their book to you. Be sure to praise them!
All little kids want to bring home a new “goody” when out shopping. In our household we would occasionally let our daughter pick out a treat for herself. However, she quickly learned (they’re pretty smart!) that she could always pick out a new book and put it into the cart. Soon, she was bypassing the toy aisle and heading straight for the books!
Before you know it, the idea of going to the library will be as exciting to your child as going to the toy store.
I love those little yellow squares. They are perfect for labeling items around the house. Make sure to repeat the words and reinforce what the items are to your child. Later, you can make a game out of it. Take off all the Post-its and see how many words they can correctly match up with the item! Be sure to have a small reward for their success! Hmm, perhaps a new book?
There are so many software games that make learning fun. Invest in them. Back when my daughter was young she loved Bailey’s Book House, Reader Rabbit, Pajama Sam and more! We started her out around two years old on the computer. Boy, did we get a lot of grief over that! Everyone thought she was too young. This was back in the 90s and computers weren’t as mainstream back then as they are now.
With today’s apps it’s easy to find an appropriate reading program. It’s as simple as a download or web-access. At first glance, I think the Rosetta Stone’s Kids Reading program looks interesting.
I would like to give out one word of caution, regardless of the program you choose, be sure to limit screen time. The idea is to get them hooked on reading—not technology. That’ll happen soon enough.
These are just a few of the simple steps. Yes, I did say it takes dedication. You have to commit your time. However, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is when you make it a part of your daily routine.
The only downfall to encouraging your child to become an independent reader who loves books? Be prepared for your wallet to say “ouch” when the school book fair comes around. But hey, there are worse things you could spend your money on!
I have the utmost respect and admiration for teachers for all they do for our youths. However, never forget that you will always be your child’s primary teacher. They learn from you. You are their role model. The person they look to for direction. Set the right example. Be their hero.