[This is my third post on early literacy. Look here for how to get your child excited about reading, and here for info on developmental literacy and what types of books are best at each age, and here for other ways to build literacy skills.)
How to read to a toddler or preschooler
- Turn off the TV or radio, and settle in to read.
- Often we snuggle next to our kids for reading. Make sure that sometimes you sit face-to-face. Your child can learn more from you and the book if he can see your expressions.
- Show them the cover before reading – ask them to guess what the book will be about.
- Let them turn the pages – don’t stress if they miss a page.(Note, younger toddlers do best with board books. By three years old, they should be able to manage turning pages in a regular book.)
- Run your finger along the words as you read – that reinforces that print goes from left to right.Or point to the words that they might recognize as you read. If you’re reading a book that repeats some of the same words on every page (“but where’s the cat?”) point them out on each page as you go along.
- Define new words and explain new ideas as you come to them.
- If a book has no words, or you don’t like the words, make up your own! Tell a story based on the pictures, or point to pictures on a page and ask your child to tell you what’s happening.
- Talk about the pictures. Label what’s in each picture (“there’s a pig and a cow in front of the barn”). Talk about what’s happening in the picture (“the duck is splashing in the puddle”). Point out familiar things (“he has a toy train just like you do” or “her bedroom has some of the same things your room has… see. there’s a bed, and a table, and a teddy bear.”)
- Make it sound dynamic: Use different voices for different characters; read at different speeds (some stories are slow and gentle, others fast and rollicking); play up the emotional tone – are characters happy? Scared? Silly? Angry? Show it with your voice.
- Try singing a book. Some books are perfectly designed for singing.
- Ask questions about what’s happening in the story, ask how characters are feeling, ask them to guess what will happen on the next page. Later in the day, ask them about the book you read, and talk about experiences your family has had that are like what you see in books.
- Think of a book as a conversation starter. Beyond what’s on the page, you can ask about other things in the book, or help your child connect what’s in the book to her everyday experiences.
- It’s OK if toddlers wander around while you read – they can still listen while moving.
- Enjoy reading – let your joy shine through!
Collection of fabulous articles on building literacy skills at www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/tips-tools-early-lit-and-lang.html