At such a young age children often miss the point of a good book, you would never expect your toddler to follow through an entire story. Frankly, the story line of a book is way less important than the pictures at this age. Never expect your toddler to read through a book front to back. Reading time should be fun, not stressful, and not a challenge. As parents we are taught that if we don’t get reading time right with our children they might end up as failures in school. All of the pressure on parents takes the joy out of reading time, instead of spending reading time with your child you find yourself trying to teach your toddler to read. Front to back, top to bottom, left to right. These things will be important to teach later in life when your child is older, the key right now is allowing exploration and learning during reading time. It is more about the time you spend together, and the exposure to words and pictures than the actual process of reading itself.
Having said all of that, lets take a look at five steps every parent can take to ensure that reading time in their household is something their toddlers look forward too, and even request more of!
1. Letting go of structure:
A toddler is faced with structure throughout the entire day. If you really want your toddler to develop of love for reading allow reading time to be relatively structure free. If your toddler wants you to lay on your belly on the floor with her instead of sitting propped up in a hard chair, so be it. Toddlers want to curl up with a good book just as much as the next person. Of course you can keep structure in certain areas such as no tearing pages, reading time will last for 15 minutes etc.
2: Reading time should be cozy:
Many parents take the importance of reading time to heart and start to think of it as a set learning time for their children, They then implement a reading time ritual, I.E. at 1:00 Pm every day we will march to the kitchen table, sit upright in the chair, and remain there for 30 minutes reading. That certainly is no fun, what toddler do you know that would learn to love reading in that type of environment. These parents have the best intentions they fail to recognize that the child who plops on a bean bag next to mom or dad will enjoy reading time much more the child in the hard kitchen chair and at the end of the day both will have learned equally as well. Keep reading time cozy. Bean bags are amazing for toddlers, there is something about the way they squish into the giant bag that calms them. Get two bean bags and make them your reading time chairs. During cold weather you can move the bean bags in front of the fireplace (a safe distance) and read together in front of the fire. If you are cozy and your toddler is cozy reading time will become a relief from all the stresses of the day and offer a period of relaxation for both of you.
3. Let Your Toddler Re Write the Story:
During reading time your toddler really knows best when it comes to stories. If your toddler thinks that the last page should have been the first and the introduction should always come last so be it. Remember, you are not trying to teach your toddler to read. The point of reading to your toddler is exposing them to words, and pictures. Often times the pictures in the toddler book are more important than anything else. They offer you an opportunity to teach your child a new word to describe something. Because the value of reading time is not the story, let your toddler re write the story. You might be wishing you could get through the whole book, and you will, someday, when your child is older, for now let it go. Forcing your child to read through the book in the order you choose is only going to make reading time stressful, and goes back to tip number 1, letting structure go.
4. Let your Child Pick:
Throughout the day parents must tell their toddlers no at least a few hundred times. While we must restrict their will for their own safety this is one area where you can let your toddler express their wants, their will. Use reading time as an opportunity to let your child express their wants. Make a big deal about it, complement your child on their book choice, you pick the best books, I really needed your help picking the book today. Despite all of the no’s, all of the frustration throughout the day, reading time has just offered your toddler an opportunity to ‘do what they want.’ There is no harm in reading Goodnight Moon, or hop on pop during seven of your seven reading times. In fact, toddlers love repetition finding it very soothing, and who doesn’t want a calm happy toddler
5: Never Mix Reading Time With Punishment:
This should be a no brainer but I have known parents who would punish their kids by increasing the duration of reading time. One parent went as far as too require that their toddler look through a book while in the time out chair. Never, every associate reading with punishment. Any parent who does this is certainly setting up their children to dislike reading. A child punished with books won’t like books anymore than a child who is spanked with a belt dislikes belts.
6: Timing is Everything:
Reading time should be during your toddlers happy time or wind down time. Expecting your toddler to read after barely recovering from their daily meltdown is unfair. Try setting reading time prior to going to bed when your toddler has run out some of their energy. If you are looking to do two reading periods throughout the day try one before nap time and one before bed. If your toddler no longer naps, try reading directly after lunch, toddlers focus better on a full tummy. Also, never set an unreasonable duration for reading time. Toddlers have very short attention spans. Set a reasonable duration for reading time and reward your toddler for sitting through that time. As your child gets older you can slowly increase your expectations for them. There is not a particular set time, all toddlers develop differently, you know what is reasonable for your child, set an attainable goal for them.