Reading to your young child(ren) regularly can have a significant impact on your child’s development and help them to learn over a million new words before they get to kindergarten.

In order to help your child take advantage of these benefits, creating a schedule to follow can help ensure you get in as many books as possible—maximizing their exposure to new vocabulary and the amount of time you get to spend bonding with your child.

When to Read to Your Toddler

Some of the best times to read to your toddler are before naptime and/or bedtime. Reading can help your child to relax, which can be beneficial when getting them to settle down for some quiet time or to fall sleep.

Books aren’t just for bedtime though—you can read any time and choose a book to set the mood. Books about play or that are funny can be great to read before the park; books about manners can help you to explain why you want your child to act or do something in particular; and books about potty training can help your child to link what they see and hear in the book with real life. Anytime can be book time!

Whenever possible, if your child asks you to read them a book, do so. This will only further encourage their love of reading and foster the skills that reading out loud to your toddler can produce.

How to Read to Your Toddler

Provide your child a selection of books to choose from—since toddlers enjoy any amount of independence they get, let them pick out the book. Praise their selection and have them get ready to read.

You can have your child sit next to you or on your lap. Being close will allow them to see the images on the book and associate the picture with the words being said and make them feel more encouraged to take part in the activity. Closeness to you will also reinforce feelings of safety, happiness, and general relaxation.

Allow your child to help turn the pages—even if they skip some. During the reading, ask your child about the pictures they see—can they find an object, shape, or color? Reading time can also be about reinforcing other learning as well—not just hearing a story!

If a book has a repetitive phrase, and it has been read multiple times, pause part of the way through the sentence and have your child finish it. It’s ok if they don’t remember it word for word but recalling even a small part is a big step in development.

More Tips for Reading to Your Toddler
  • Sitting still is not a requirement. Don’t fret if your child wants to move around or act out what is happening in the book. Even if its bedtime, this type of participation shows reading comprehension—they understand what is being said and what is happening in the book.

  • Read whichever book your child selects. Avoid asking them to pick a new book just because you read it last night (or every night before for the last week). By reading the same book over and over again, you increase the chances of your child picking up on key sight words.

  • When reading, read slowly and trail your finger along the words. This will help them to understand that you aren’t just making up the words you are saying but are reading letters on the page.

  • Really get into it. Use different voices for each of the characters—or at least use the appropriate tones (like loudness for excitement). Use props or your hands to act out parts (like putting your finger over your mouth when a character is shushing).

  • When buying books, look for ones that are age-appropriate for durability. Hardback books, books with thicker pages, and board or cloth books can withstand better against a curious toddler who insists on turning the pages.

  • Ask questions and talk about the book. Discuss what is happening in the photos—many times there is more going on than just the few sentences on the page. Also ask things like, “What do you think will happen next?” Engaging your child with the story line helps with reading development and makes storytime that much more fun.