How To Read To Babies And Toddlers


It is often emphasized that one is never too young to read. Babies as young as six months old could benefit enormously when they engage with books. A love for reading cultivated in the early years of life yields great results later in life. As parents, it is our role to develop a love for reading in children and for them to associate reading with pleasure. It is essential that we accompany them in the process of reading, especially when they are that young. Research has proven that reading to babies and toddlers leads to better brain development, stronger vocabulary, better memory retention, and greater literacy skills. Reading to and with children then garners a positive relationship of your children not just with books but also with you as a parent since it gives you an opportunity to bond with each other. 

While reading is as beneficial as it is essential, it could come across as a challenge during the initial phase. It could be a little hard to make young children sit still and listen as you read to them but with a few innovations in the process, you can easily make that happen. 

So, before we get to the tips on reading with toddlers, here are a few things that we must ensure before beginning the process of reading. 

  • Maintaining a daily schedule for reading: Dedicate a particular time slot to reading every day. This would make children associate that time to reading and it would become relatively easier to put them in the right frame of mind for engaging with a book. 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes before bedtime is a must to instil a reading routine in children. When practised regularly, reading would eventually become a part of the daily routine and children would find it easier to sink into the process.
  • Creating the right ambience: Creating the right physical environment for reading largely affects the formation of the right frame of mind for reading. Dedicate a space to reading and add in a few elements like a bookshelf, some comfortable place to sit and the like. This would make the process enjoyable for children and they would look forward to being in their reading corner every day. 
  • Picking out the right books: If your baby is less than a year old, the responsibility of picking out books is on you. Choosing the right books that engage children is an essential aspect of how they would perceive reading as an exercise. Pick out books that include big, bright pictures. Children really enjoy touch and feel books that present a variety of different textures. One word books also go a long way in building the vocabulary of the little ones. Rhyme books take the reading process to the next level of performativity which also becomes very enjoyable for children. As the children grow slightly older, encourage them to walk to the bookshelf and pick out what they like. Children often insist on reading the same books every day which is actually a good trait because repetition strengthens the neural connections for that particular story. It also helps children use vocabulary in everyday life. 

Now that we have the perfect environment set along with some interesting books, I am listing out a few practices that we can adopt while we are reading with the little ones.

  1. Make the process interactive: As we venture into the domain of reading, we must remember that instead of reading to children, we have to read with children. We must ensure that children participate in the process of reading and that they are with us, every step of the way. You can begin the process by setting expectations around the number of pages you are going to read or if you are going to finish a story so the children know exactly what they will be doing for the day. At the end of the story, always give the child some time to reflect. Ask questions around how the character in the story made them feel if they felt connected with it, was the characters happy by the end, what did they learn from the story and the like. You can add your personal interpretation to help them make sense of the text. Also, remember to recite the story in a clear manner and not use a baby voice because when the child listens to you, she/he is also trying to understand the correct pronunciation of the words.
  2. Be expressive to channel their imagination: Let your imagination fly and transform reading into a magical experience. Add elements that would transport the kids into the world of stories. Use a sing-song voice while reciting the stories. You can use a high pitched tone and animated expressions to keep the story-telling experience alive for your children. Point out the different characters, shapes, colours or comparative elements like tall-short, big-small, etc and also connect the story to real-life situations. This will help the child learn beyond the text of the book. Other activities while reading could include placing surprise elements within the flaps of books, introducing pop-up elements, bringing in objects for a touch and feel the experience. 
  3. Pause and look for signs of what the child is feeling: While you are in the middle of the text, remember to pause at various intervals and look for the expression of your child as an attempt to understand what they might be feeling. They could experience a variety of emotions through a story and we must talk to them to understand that. Make sure to give the child enough space and time to talk to you while reading and check if they are trying to tell you something. 
  4. Gauge comprehension: At the end of every story, try and gauge how much the child could understand and comprehend. See if they can answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions. This would also help you track the progress of the child upon reading regularly as you can see if their comprehension improves with reading every day. 
  5. Allow your child to read with you: Lastly, when you read, you want to point at the words and read with the child. Children must know the words that they are reading and the sounds that are associates with those words. This technique helps children in understanding words and sounds and would enable them to easily become independent readers very soon. 

Now that you are armed with all these tips and tricks, you can be sure to enjoy a wonderful reading experience with your kids. If you employ these best practices, I'm positive that your children would become avid readers by the time they are in their school years. Happy reading!

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October 03, 2020 — Dr. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi

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