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You know that reading books is great for your toddler’s language development, but you struggle to get them to sit down and look at a book. I often hear from parents that their child isn’t interested in books or they don’t have the attention for it. But we don’t want them to miss out on this great opportunity to learn language and literacy skills! Keep reading for 8 tips for reading with your toddler.

1. Let your toddler choose the book

Let your toddler choose the book and make sure you have books on topics that they are interested in. If they love animals, bring out those animal books. If they are obsessed with cars and trucks, get some of those. Try out different books from the library to see what your child likes.

2. Let your toddler take the lead

Instead of reading the book while your toddler quietly listens, let them take the lead and show you what they are interested in. They may point to a picture, or say what they see. You can respond by interpreting your toddler’s message and expanding what they say. You don’t even need to read the words on the page.

Toddler: points to the cow

You say: “Yes, that’s a cow. The cow says moo”

Toddler: “cow”

You say: “The cow is eating grass”

3. Read board books with flaps and textures

Board books are great for toddlers because they are easy for them to hold and turn the pages. Many toddlers love books with flaps and different textures they can feel.  They may be more interested in the book if it has these features. Some great ones to try are Dear ZooWhere’s SpotThat’s Not My Bunny.

4. Repeat the same books your child loves

Don’t worry if you feel like you are reading the same book over and over. That’s a good thing, because it shows that your child is interested in the book, and it helps them to become more familiar with the words and concepts. Feel free to change up the way you read the book too, by focusing on different words. You can use a variety of words to increase your toddler’s vocabulary such as action words (eating, walking), adjectives (big, fast), feelings (happy, sad), and location words (in, out, under)

5. Get face to face

It’s common for parents to read with their child on their lap, but another way that can encourage more interaction, is to be face to face with your child while reading. This allows your child to see your facial expression and creates more opportunities for communication.  You can do this by sitting across from one another, lying on your tummy, or turning your body to face them on the couch.

6. Be Fun and Silly!

Your toddler will be more engaged if you speak in an animated, silly way. Don’t be afraid to make silly voices or sing related songs. The more fun you are having, the more fun your toddler will have when reading.

7. Create books together

A great way to get your toddler interested in shared reading is to create books about them! Just print some pictures of recent experiences your child has had and put them in a binder or folder. This could be going to the zoo, a birthday party or even just a trip to the park. You can include family, friends and pets- anything meaningful to your child. Your toddler may be more interested in looking at pictures of themselves and people they know, than cartoon pictures. This is a great opportunity for language learning and book sharing.

8. Start small and build from there

At first, your toddler may only read for a very short time. The more you practice, and as your child ages, the longer their attention span will get. It’s okay if they can’t finish a book right now. Feel free to look at a few pages together, then pick it back up later. Create lots of opportunities to read throughout the day. As your toddler becomes more interested in books, you can introduce different types of books and more advanced picture books.


Folsom, J. S. (n.d.). Dialogic Reading: Having a Conversation about Books. Retrieved January 31, 2020, from

Lowry, L. (n.d.). Sharing Books with Toddlers, The Hanen Way. Retrieved January 31, 2020, from,-The-Hanen-Way.aspx