The wonderful toddler age is all about play, exploration and growth. It’s an exciting time where parents get to watch major developmental milestones, like watching a child take their first steps or hearing them speak their first word.
Learning to read fluently is something that most children pick up after they start school. But many parents don’t realise that the learning to read process actually takes place much sooner than that.
Parents play a huge role in supporting their toddler’s journey to becoming a confident reader, and subsequently, a lifelong learner. And it all begins with setting aside some time each day to sit down and open up a book. Here are some tips for you to try at home:
The best thing you can do for your child is turn reading into a fun experience. Show them how much fun it is and don’t worry about making mistakes. Learning to read should be something that your toddler is just itching to do all on their own one day, so find a comfortable spot, get into a cuddly position and get lost in the magic of reading!
So your toddler may not be interested in reading right before bedtime. Or maybe they’re tired of reading about the same thing over and over again. It’s important to establish a regular reading routine that makes everyone happy. This takes time and patience to get right. Try reading at different times in the day, in different places (e.g. outdoors, in the kitchen), and don’t forget to introduce your toddler to a wide range of books. Remember, it’s OK to not finish a book sometimes, and it’s OK to have a few off-days too.
Don’t always expect your toddler to sit still during reading time. Toddlers need to be moving, it’s part of what they do! If you have a particularly restless toddler, role-play scenes from books or recreate letters with craft sticks or playdough. Choose books with flaps or different textures, or ones that make funny sounds to turn reading time into a hands-on activity.
4. Come alive.
Did Sam say he liked green eggs and ham, or did he exclaim it with excitement? Your child may not understand every word you read aloud, but they sure will understand your tone and expressions. Don’t be afraid to read with expression or use your silly voice to bring the reading experience to life. Let loose with sound effects and invite your toddler to join in the fun!
5. Ask questions.
Encourage your toddler to make predictions and tell you what they think about the characters or pictures in a book. Ask questions before, during and after reading to keep your child thinking and engaged. Nothing is quite as delightfully suspenseful as guessing what might happen at the turn of each page.
Search for titles that your toddler can’t resist by relating books to what they like. What have they been interested in lately? It may be trains, animals, magic, or the ocean. Try to choose books that can also relate to real-life experiences and feelings that your child can identify with, like starting a new pre-school or making friends.
7. Sing and rhyme.
Songs and rhymes help children understand that sounds in our language have meaning and follow certain patterns. Have fun reading and reciting songs and nursery rhymes together, and exaggerate the rhyming words to highlight the different sounds in each word. Read your favourites over and over again and pause to let your toddler finish the next part.
Toddlers like routine. Creating a reading routine is important for helping your toddler grow into a reader who reads for both meaning and pleasure. Read several times a day for around 15-20 minutes, depending on your child’s attention span. With a set routine in place, your child will know when it’s time to read and will likely develop their own positive reading habits when they move to independent reading.
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