Mother reading with baby to encourage language development
Activities for Language Development,  Books

How to Raise a Reader – 8 Tips for Reading with Infants and Toddlers

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My mom had difficulty with reading when she was young. She likely had dyslexia that was never formally diagnosed, but she worked hard and became a prolific reader anyway! She vowed that she would do everything she could to make sure reading was easy for me, and so she read to me every day from infancy. (Thanks Mom!)


And it worked! I was a complete bookworm all through school and still love to read.


But what if you have a resistant reader/listener? Maybe you are trying to read to your infant or toddler but they are just not interested. Don’t worry – I’ll talk about that too! Keep reading  🙂

RELATED: Practice Vocabulary with these Printable Sorting Mats in my Etsy Shop! 

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1. Read Every Day

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but that is because it is so important! Not only does it create a bonding opportunity, but it is incredible for language development as well. It helps teach vocabulary, building sentences, and prosody (how the voice goes up and down in pitch as you talk).


At almost two-years-old, my daughter is in the midst of wanting to hear the same book over and over and over. And that’s okay (from a learning perspective anyway – from a parent’s perspective I guess it depends on the book!). One way that young children learn is from repetition.


BUT what if you have a resistant reader (aka resistant listener) from the start?



2. You Don’t Have to Read a Book from Cover to Cover

The goal here is to build a love for books and reading. If your child wants to just look at the pictures and talk about them or play “find the. . .” That’s okay!


If he gets restless during a certain page you can give a one-sentence synopsis and move on to a more exciting part. Some kids like the repeated line(s) in a book, so you can read that part word-for-word and shorten the other parts – the key is experimenting and doing what works for your child in that moment!

toddler pointing in book to encourage reading in toddlers

RELATED: Practice Vocabulary with these Printable Sorting Mats in my Etsy Shop! 

3. Get Board Books (or books with those plastic-y pages)

Sylvie LOVED to “help” turn the pages of books from a very young age, even if that meant me starting to turn the page of a board book and her just pushing it down the rest of the way.


While it’s important to teach respect for books, it’s also nice to not have to constantly be worried about ripping pages! Using board books allows your child to have more contact with books from an earlier age.


Some of my favorite board books for babies:

(Click on the image to read descriptions and reviews on Amazon.com)


Some of my favorite board books for toddlers:

(Click on the image to read descriptions and reviews on Amazon.com)


RELATED: How I Use Bear Sees Colors for Language Development


4. Talk about the Pictures

As I mentioned in #2, looking at pictures and talking about them might be all you do one day if that is what is interesting to your child.

Even if she is interested in hearing the whole book, stop periodically and talk about what you see. Learning to use extra information from pictures and context clues is an important skill for early literacy and for increasing language development.


And don’t forget about non-fiction books with great photographs. Sylvie loves National Geographic kids’ books (primarily for the pictures).

Click here to see more pages of this book and read reviews on Amazon.com

5. Get Books or Magazines in the Mail

There’s something really special for kids about getting something in the mail! And if that something is a book or magazine, it makes reading all the more fun!


When my daughter was about 12 months old, my mom told me that she ordered a subscription for Hello Magazine from Highlights. I remember Highlights Magazine as the one in the dentist’s office when I was a kid, and being more for elementary-aged kids.


But I didn’t realize that now they make another magazine called “Hello” just for 0-2 year-olds. The pages are made out that plastic-y material I was taking about above. And they are a compact size, making them perfect to throw in your diaper bag. My daughter’s favorite part is the “find it” pages, which are made really easy for babies!



6. Keep Books in Multiple Places in Your Home

By having little stashes of books all around the house, you make any place a great place to read! We have them on shelves, in baskets, under the coffee table, etc.


Here are some ways to build up your child’s library:

  • Ask for books at your baby shower instead of cards
  • Have a book-themed birthday party
  • Borrow from the library
  • Register with the Dolly Parton Literacy Program for FREE books supported by local donations (click here to see if your area participates)
  • Check out garage sales
  • Watch for library book sales (usually a couple of times per year, the library tries to get rid of older/well-loved books for cheap!)
  • Get a toddler or baby-friendly magazine delivered monthly – we get “Hello!” magazine.

RELATED: Practice Vocabulary with these Printable Sorting Mats in my Etsy Shop! 

RELATED: How We Get Free Books – Dolly Parton’s Literacy Program


7. Visit the Library and Let Your Child Pick a Book


Learning to pick your own reading material is a skill that all life-long readers need to master – and it takes a lot of trial and error.


As the saying goes, “You can’t always judge a book by it’s cover” – but your toddler will sure try! So you should also make sure you pick a few books that you know he’ll like too.

RELATED: Here’s a Peek at our Toddler Weekly Schedule (Free Printable)

8. Make Reading Together Special

While it’s great to make reading a part of your everyday schedule, such as before bedtime every night. Sometimes you can do something a little extra special!


How to make reading with your child special:

  • Make a craft that relates to the book you read
  • Get cozy with blankets and pillows while sitting in you lap
  • Cook a treat or food related to the book
  • Read in an indoor tent/fort/tepee together with a flashlight


RELATED: Do’s and Don’ts to Get Your Toddler Talking

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