Young Toddlers: I Get It!
The year of astonishing growth from age one to two brings a sense of mastery and joy with familiar books. This age also introduces a physicality that parents can incorporate into reading.
If "books are part of [children's] everyday experiences in their homes—they're familiar, like toys—[kids] really just delight in being read to," says Dr. Barbour. Young toddlers are much more interested in a book's content than they were as babies and often treat reading as a "peek-a-boo game," wanting to know what is on the next page, she adds.
As children begin speaking a few words, it is important to provide simple picture books that they can label and begin to repeat back to the parent, Wong says. Later in the second year, many toddlers also like rhyming books.
At this stage it is especially important to provide resilient board books for the child "so that she can 'read' and turn pages independently," say Drs. Herb and Willoughby-Herb. These authors also suggest setting up an easily accessible bookshelf or other area so the child "can find her own books and put them away," contributing to a sense of accomplishment in reading.
Given young toddlers' fascination with moving around, what should parents do to keep them interested while reading? Most important, experts say, is to follow the child's cues and not force the issue.
"Maybe the worst thing the parents can do is say, 'It's reading time,'" and march through the book page by page until they finish, says Wong. Instead, just keep reading while the child moves around. "They can be walking around the room, they can be crawling around the floor—you're still telling a story," Wong says. Reading at this age continues to be about associating books with pleasure and relationships, not about sitting absolutely quietly.
There are books out there for every child, "even the little people who hustle about and really don't sit still," says Dr. Herb, who is director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book at Penn State University. He also suggests taking advantage of natural "pin-down" times to read, such as high chair feeding or bedtime.