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"Children's books were my helping hand when I brought up my toddlers"


We have been talking to some of our friends, parents, and teachers about using books to divert toddlers and to keep them happy. This article is made up from some of the comments and ideas those friends and helpers have contributed to make this piece. Thanks to you all.

1. "Read to your toddler" - and "sing, play rhyming games and look at a book together"

Everyone agreed that reading to a toddler is one way to keep the toddler happy. It is of course well-known that parental reading to children increases the child’s cognitive and reading skills. This early-life intervention is beneficial for the rest of their lives and it starts with reading in the toddler years.

Pre-school children who are exposed to a lot of everyday language do better when they get to school, whether that’s singing songs together, or playing rhyming games, or looking at a book.

Being read to is one of the best ways to hear language. It is a natural next step to talking to your child throughout the day. Reading problems can be minimised if reading starts when the child is just a toddler.

2. "Work on shapes and building up the sounds helps with basic skills"

Before children can read by themselves, they need to gradually build up what are really early literacy skills.

Reading to toddlers gives awareness that words are built up with smaller sounds grouped together. Gradually they will recognise some of the letters of the alphabet, and from these very first words they will build a vocabulary.

Reading aloud to toddlers as often as you can is the right path to help them learn to read by themselves.

A toddler’s vocabulary increases remarkably quickly, supported by first books which become favourites – and shapes colours and letters become identifiable.

3. "Point!"

Several people who work with toddllers told us that the action of pointing to shapes and colours builds that awareness.

Two nursery teachers said they spend time each day playing a game where they point to objects. They like to use early learning books to point out familiar things. Sitting calmly helps to get the children calm so they can listen and learn.

Even before the toddler gets on their feet they will then be familiar with so many aspects of what will be reinforced on the pages of ‘first books’.

The action of pointing at objects will have come from basic interaction at play from a strong connection with those around them – not just parents, but brothers and sisters and playmates.

4. "Key words"

Another idea everyone seemed to agree on was key words. Reading aloud is also an important way to help children to move from babyhood to toddlerhood.

Key words take on meaning and these help your child feel safe. That’s the idea behind the series of books published by Geddes & Grosset: (yes, here is our sales pitch!). This series of books is written by a mother of three children. All three are now successfully grown with children of their own. Seems like yesterday that the three were learning key words...

First Steps - Real books for toddlers : Hide! – Oops! – Splash! – Well done! – Stop! – Sshh! – Smile! – Look! – Sing! – Listen! – Jump! – Run! These are fun simple word and picture books which bring early learning concepts to life in an imaginative way. This series is aimed at reading age of age 2+ but some parents report that their 5 year old loves them also. As we all know, reading ages vary.

From "Well Done!" :

5. "How to read to toddlers"

Some parents told us that in their experience reading to toddlers, say twice a day if you can, perhaps at regular times introduces the idea of sitting with a book to relax.

The most normal way is to have your toddler on your knee or in your lap. That helps you and your child to be focused and it gives comfort to the child who will join in the reading experience, one way or another!

From "Listen!" :

6. "Be patient"

Ah, not always easy when you are busy but everyone told us they need to be calm and patient and to "Take your time". They said perhaps allow your toddler to choose a book from several. They advised us to read slowly and exaggerate your voice and excitement as you talk about the pictures. Try to fully engage. Point to the pages, and name them as you progress through the pages. Attention span can be short – but don’t worry about that. It will grow. Relax and try to enjoy it. It should be a happy together experience.

7. "Think of the book as an entertaining, easy and nice, helping friend"

One mother told us that she found her child went through phases. Most children do, after all. But you can always put the book to one side and come back to it later. Toddlers will look at books by themselves. Keep books accessible and take some with you when you go out – they can be really useful throughout the day, if you have to stop, or have an appointment. A book is light, small and takes the child out of a frustrating moment. A dad told us that he puts a small book in his coat pocket and found his child liked to chew it, even if the child did not want to read it at that moment!

One literary minded lady said - "Think of the book as a beautiful diverting friend to help you and your child" which we thought was a nice note to end on. Thanks to everyone who helped us put this together.

Happy reading.

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