Reading To Toddlers

Reading to toddlers is crucial for language development. However, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. 

Top 5 Tips When Reading to Toddlers

1. Be Engaging

Jump into the book! Show enthusiasm for the story. Your love for reading will rub off on your child.

Have different voices for different characters. If something is scary, surprising, or funny, provide the appropriate emotion. 

Why? You will capture your child’s attention and make reading a fun activity. Also, by varying your voice and showing emotion, you are teaching your child the definition of those emotions and what those emotions actually look like. 

2. Follow Your Child's Attention & Lead

Reading a book start to finish is beneficial because your child learns basic story structure but it is unnecessary every time. If your child has lots of questions about a certain page or is interested in certain pictures, stay on that page! Take advantage of the opportunity to talk about new words and build vocabulary.

Why? When reading stories to your child, you are teaching literacy, speech, and language skills. This is the most important. Finishing a book is not crucial at this age.

How To Read To A Toddler

3. Ask Questions & THINK OUT LOUD!

Ask your child “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how” questions as you read. 

Allow your child to ask you questions. When you answer your child’s questions, remember to “think out loud.” Talk your child through your reasoning about how you came to an answer. 

Why? When you ask questions, you are practicing listening skills and checking for comprehension. By thinking out loud when you answer your child’s questions, you are teaching your child HOW TO ANSWER QUESTIONS!

4. Make Predictions

Start from the beginning! Make predictions based on the book’s cover. If your child doesn’t have a prediction, make one yourself and talk your child through your thinking. 

As you read the book, continue to make predictions (i.e., “What do you think will happen next?”)

Why? Predicting is a powerful language/literacy skill that will help with reading comprehension.

5. Introduce NEW Vocabulary

Enjoy all the vocabulary “help” you have from books. Books contain visuals, context clues, and many repetitions of new vocabulary words. These are all key components when learning a new vocabulary word.

Use lots of adjectives. Relate the new word to something your toddler knows. Point to the object throughout the day so your child practices the vocabulary word in multiple settings. 

Why? Vocabulary development is important for many reasons such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening development.

Check out our favorite books for toddlers here.

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Have a younger child?  Top 5 tips When Reading To a Baby

1. Point While Naming Pictures

Talk about pictures. Point to them as you name them. Your child will associate that word with its object. This is very important for vocabulary development.

2. Feel Textures

When reading touch and feel books, feel the different textures and encourage your child to feel them too. Talk about how they feel. Use descriptive words such as “soft,” “rough,” and “long.”

3. Let Your Child Turn The Page

Follow your child’s lead. Let him or her pick which page grabs his or her attention. When children are engaged, they learn faster.

If your baby starts to chew on a book, that’s normal. Let him. Talk about what he is chewing!

4. Describe Objects, Make Animal Sounds

Say “cow” and “moo.” Talk about the size and color of the cow. Your child will start associate concepts with objects.

Words in baby books are for older babies and toddlers. Feel free to “write your own story” as you read the book. 

5. Simple Language

Use 1-2 word phrases. Talk slow. Exaggerate your tone. Use “baby talk.”

Your child will attend more to your speech. If you talk fast with long sentences, your baby will not pay attention to your words. Speech and language opportunity lost!

Check out our favorite baby books.

Let's Go Shopping

If you don't already have a nice collection, pick up books for toddlers here, at the library, garage sales, or book stores.


› How To Read To Your Child



Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series