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How to Encourage a Lifelong Love of Reading in Your Toddler

Audrey is an editorial intern for a US-based literary agency and loves sharing insight from literary agents and seasoned writers.

How to Encourage a Lifelong Love of Reading in Your Toddler

How to Encourage a Lifelong Love of Reading in Your Toddler

5 Ways to Encourage a Love of Reading in Your Toddler

Reading is so important, even crucial I would say, to maturity, social skills, and the overall broadening of the mind. There are several ways to encourage your tot to love books and reading way before the age they can learn to read. Of course, some of these lessons require intentional effort beyond just sitting a tablet in front of them so you can get things done around the house (I’m guilty!). Below are my top tips for fanning the flame of your little future book lover.

1. Take Them to Play at the Library

Even though they are too young to read, most libraries have sections for kids with tables, chairs, puzzles, cars, blocks, and of course board books. My toddler loves to go to the library. We read a few board books that he picks out, but mostly he rolls a ball, sits in every kid chair for a few seconds before moving on to the next one, undoes all the puzzles, and zooms the toy monster truck across all the tables. All this is fine. After all, he is associating good feelings with the library, which he sees as only a giant room full of books. If the book room is this fun, then it stands to reason that books must be fun, too, right?

2. Take Them to Storytime

Most libraries are opening back up to toddler storytimes. In my area, they are usually on Wednesday or Thursday mornings. Here you will network with other parents of tots and your child will be an audience member as a storyteller makes a book come alive. This is a different experience than just thumbing through a book with your child or letting them handle the pages. Again, it’s the positive associations we’re shooting for. And yes, your toddler will probably pay attention to 10% of the story and babble and walk around the rest of the time, or sit there and stare into space. And that’s alright, too!

Electronic Storytime Options

There are many shows that are based on books. You could even let them watch their favorite book-based preschool shows while also checking out books from your local library with the same familiar characters. PBS programming comes to mind, as well as Pete the Cat on Amazon Prime.

3. Let Them See You Reading

How can we expect our children to take interest in something that we don’t make time for ourselves? Whenever you are reading a novel, a devotional, a magazine, or anything at all, be sure to show your tot and say something like, “Mom’s reading. Where’s your book?” Make a connection that you are looking at your book (or similar item) and they can look at theirs, too. This may become like a game to your child. They will be encouraged by this parent-child common interest activity. They need to see that books are a part of your world, and thus their world, too.

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4. Take Time to Read to Them

Just handing them a book won’t do much to promote a love of books. They’ll see it like every other toy in their toybox––something to throw or smack. Take the time to sit with them, repeating key phrases like “reading time” or “book time” or “let’s read.” Show them how to treat a book: how to open the pages, how to turn them, how to close the book and say, “the end!” Make book time a special time of every day.

Should You Teach a Preschooler to Read?

Some preschoolers are ready. With others, it's best not to push them to even look at actual words yet. That brings me to my next point. . . .

5. Never Force Reading During the Preschool Years

It does much more harm than good to force a child to repeat letter sounds, memorize letters, or otherwise make them read when they are not ready or when they don’t feel like it. Even setting a time limit for a four-year-old, such as having them read a certain number of minutes, can be harmful. This is because they will associate negative feelings or punishments with reading, and this can lead to a lifelong battle of wills in the academic sector.

Should You Teach the Sounds of Letters?

You can try to teach them letter sounds, but if they’re not interested, show restlessness, or become grumpy, you should switch tactics back to the fun stuff. "Look at this book with peek-a-boo flaps! Sensational!" "How about this book with textures, or this one that’s pop-up? Exceptional!" Suddenly your toddler/preschooler is interested in book time again.

Encourage Early-Reader skills during the Pre-Reading years with Tools

There are things you can do to encourage fun pre-reading skills, such as looking at the pictures of a book and prompting your child by asking them what is happening in the picture, what just happened, or what they think will happen next. If these things are too complex for your child’s young mind, point to objects in the pictures and name things together. You can even direct their chubby little finger to the objects you are naming. Some kids will not wait while you read the whole sentence printed on the page, so repeating key words relating to the characters, items, or actions pictured is best.

My kids have a lot of reading resources, and we have a few favorites in our house. My oldest son learned to read early, around four years old, by using BoB books. The first set of BoB books (available on Amazon) is geared toward pre-reading skills. They teach kids tools that will help them when they actually start to learn to read, around kindergarten age, some as early as four-year-old preschool. The best part is, kids don’t even realize they are learning, and they feel so very proud of themselves after they finish a book.

In Short

Encouraging your toddler to love reading will take initiative on your part, but it is very doable, and super important for their future academic success and brain power.

© 2022 Audrey Lancho

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