Reading to Infants and Toddlers

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By E. Perez

What is the big deal about reading to infants and toddlers? Why is it important to read to them? Are there successful strategies to use when reading to infants and toddlers? What type of books should be read to young children?

It always fascinates me to hear all the reasons why we should NOT spend our time reading to infants and toddlers. “Babies do not understand what is being read to them.” “They can’t even talk, how will they contribute to reading a book?” “All infants do is place books in their mouths and chew on them.”

Reading to infants and toddlers is a big deal. Introducing, sharing and reading books to children at an early age can establish a strong foundation for later literacy skills. Reading builds curiosity, introduces them to new words, and it provides a positive association with books. Sure young children do not have a long attention span, but they are interested in books and they love to be read to.

We do not expect infants or toddlers to be able to read, but the skills that lead them to be successful readers begin in the early years. It is important as parents and early child care teachers to make lots of books available to these young children, provide them with plenty of experiences with books, read to them as much as possible and ensure we are responsive to children who want to be read to. When one reads to infant and toddlers, they become familiar with the sound of language and learn that print in these books have meaning.

Parents and early child care teachers can engage children in the reading process. When reading, adults should point out to different words and make connections between text and the imagery in the book. Infants and toddlers should be given the opportunity to handle and explore books; even it means they will put the book in their mouths. Share control of the book. When looking through a picture book, adult should point to and name the picture. Observe how the children respond to the books. Talk to the children about the picture books and help them make connections to familiar items. Providing young children with books allows them to learn the skills on how to handle books.

Infant and toddler children should be exposed to books with basic concepts such as numbers, colors, shapes, letters, and interest items. Helen Oxenbury and Eric Carle’s books share some of these basic concepts.

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Zero to Three, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families recommend providing infant and toddler children with the following type of books.

  • Books with simple pictures.
  • Chunky books or fold out books that can be propped up in the crib.
  • Cloth and soft vinyl books with simple pictures that can be washed.
  • Small plastic photo albums of family and friends.
  • Books with few words on each page.
  • Books with simple rhymes or predictable text.
  • Textured books.
  • Books with animals of all sizes and shapes.

As an advocate of young children, I believe one of the primary benefits of reading to infant and toddlers is their development of early language and pre-literacy skills.

Imagination is Unlimited

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Cynthia Salazar

As an early childhood educator, I strongly believe that imagination plays a huge role in every child’s education. Reading and imagination go hand in hand as it helps the child envision their books from their own perspective. A child would not be able to comprehend a text without using background knowledge, reading strategies and of course his/her imagination. The following are some examples of activities that promote children’s use of imagination.

Pretend and Play

Pretend play is an activity that contributes to children using their imagination meanwhile they develop their language skills as well as their social interactions. Children can invent their own games and entertain themselves with the simplest things an adult wouldn’t. Why? Because they can use their imagination to create, innovate and adapt to different scenarios from the ocean to the sky and from super heroes to ordinary people. Children are experts at pretend and play. As teachers, we should take advantage of their imagination to make writing and reading interesting for them. Of course, there are some children that may not know how to use their imagination. It is our job to explain and model for them how to use their imagination conveniently for learning.


Mystery Box

We have heard a million times that children learn through hands-on activities, and we should provide them with different opportunities to use and expand their imagination. A particular activity I like to use with my students is the mystery box. The mystery box consists of placing random objects inside a box and students need to create a story using the objects. This allows them to use their background knowledge and imagination about each object. It is a great group activity because they can discuss, convince, and persuade their peers using their story. One of the rules of this activity is that there is no right or wrong story. This allows students to be creative and also allows their imagination to fly. Afterwards, students can tell the story to the rest of the class or write it out so everybody can see it. Teachers may adapt this strategy depending on the grade level being taught. However, the idea of not involving print in this activity may be more appealing for the lower grades because they can also develop their language throughout the use of conversations with their peers.


Reading Classic Fairy Tales

Classic read aloud, such as fairy tales and fantasy books, will help children have a better understanding about the use of imagination. Some fairytales can include but are not limited to The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Where the Wild Things Are. Children will get motivated to become authors and use their imagination to write or retell their unique stories.

Exposing children to a different end or twisted version of these classic stories will give them the opportunity to appreciate the book from a different perspective. Books such as The Stinky Cheese Man, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Wolf’s Story are just a few examples of books that present children with the other side of the story told by another character from the book. This will not only teach children to use their imagination but also think outside the box. Children can decide which side of the story they like best.


Wordless Books

Another great idea to help children unfold their imagination is to expose them to wordless picture books where they can interpret and create their own story lines guiding themselves by only using the illustrations from the book. Some picture books that can be helpful for this activity and that my students really enjoy are Chalk by Bill Thomson, Flotsam by David Wiesner, Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka and Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola . Wordless books are a great asset in the introduction of imagination to the lower grade students which also gets them hooked on reading.

Wordless Wordless2

Children of all ages can practice these activities and expand their imagination which can significantly contribute not only with their reading skills but also with their writing and language skills.

Motivating Children to Become Lifelong Readers

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Rosa Nydia Peña

Motivation plays a huge role in anything a student does, especially when it comes to reading. It determines if the reader will actually understand and enjoy the text. Cell phones, iPods, tablets, and gaming.  All things that modern day children do instead of bettering their education.  There may be quite a few distractions in modern day learning, but one should never give up on a child’s ability to read.  Not only should an educator never give up on teaching, but a child should never lose his or her will to read.  The goal here should be to motivate the child to continue reading through his or her lifetime.  Motivation is a must, especially for a child since he or she is at the point where they are finding habits that will make or break them later on in life.

In some cases, we have students who can become lost in a book that interests them so much that they become intently lost in the pages. When students find books that interest them and have the “flow” experience they are more likely to pick up another interesting book in the future.  This is exactly what we need for students to be doing.  As educators, we need to find a way to help the child find the type of books he or she likes so that reading as homework or as a hobby will not be a bore and we can keep the reader attentive in the book.  We could start this off by having incentives for students.

The majority of children if not all, usually like to have a reason to complete something.  Maybe even an incentive for completing the task.  Recess, candy bar, or a free hour or half hour of play time could all be things that the students who completed the reading of a book of their choice by the end of the week, would gain.  Sooner or later, students won’t notice that they aren’t being rewarded for something that they are doing because they are so caught up in a good read.  Either way, it is something an educator should look into so that children will be able to have something to look forward to at the end of the week. Several things you can use would be by providing toys and activities that would motivate a child for example, playthings: blocks, crayons and paper depending on their grade level. This things encourage children to invent their own worlds rather than depending on an adult to entertain them.   If you see a child that is struggling there are several strategies one can use toys to increase a child’s imagination. By doing this you are able to gauge at what level the child will be at. One will see his or hers facial expressions and determine what level they might be. My personal favorite would be share your own love of books. Bring your personal books to a classroom , so your children can see you reading them during independent reading time. Tell children what you are reading now and what you plan to read next. When the book is finished, tell them how it made you feel. Explain to them how reading books taught you about the world, helped you better understand other people, and showed them how to do new things.  We are not determining the child’s weakness we are trying to expand their need to become lifelong readers. Our goal as educators is to see the child succeed and reading is the most fundamental aspect of a child’s education. We need to be aware and be proactive in focusing on those few who will need that extra attention and time. Even if the child is determined to be a struggling reader no child should be left behind. The key factor will always be motivation but that will solely depend on the teacher in the classroom and also to motivate the parent as well.

eric carle

Literature in Kindergarten….Is It Possible?

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Norma Perez


Yes, it is possible even though many young children that are ready to attend school are not aware that their learning environment will be an inspiring and rewarding one.  As an early childhood teacher, I have encountered many young children who have not been exposed to literacy through the use of literature.

poorIt is sad to say that many of our young children today have little or no exposure to literature due to different reasons.  In some instances, they haven’t been exposed to literature of any kind.  I have had some young children come to school without ever being read to; because they either live with parents or guardians who can’t read to them, or simply because of a low social economic status environment.  Some parents do not have the resources to expose their children to literature.


booksThere are ways to expose young children to literature.  As a teacher, I believe that young children can experience literacy through children’s literature as a ‘read-aloud’.  At a very early age, young children have a playful imagination.  They are intrigued by stories that are entertaining whether it be make-believe or real.  Most often young children make personal connections about the character or the plot in the story.

Literature is the avenue for young children to be able to discover other places without ever leaving the proximity of their comfort zone; it also allows young children to learn about other cultures.  As we all know, it is important to expose our young generation to other ethical backgrounds.  Otherwise, our society will continue to stereotype people without even considering their ethics and morals.  For instance, this year I have a child in my classroom who is Asian.  It is obvious that her classmates noticed that she looked and spoke different.  So at the beginning of the school year, I read a children’s literature book titled Yoko by Rosemary Wells.  The story is about a character who takes lunch to school and her friends immediately noticed that the meal is not familiar…sushi.

sushiOf course, my students were curious about what sushi was except for my Asian student; she immediately made a personal connection and described to her classmates what sushi was and what it tasted like.  She also talked about how her mother prepared the tasty entrée, which was her most favorite dish.

Literature enhances one’s culture when it is about their own values and morals.  I truly believe that exposing young children to their own culture through literature will help them relate to the customs and traditions that occurs within their families.  When I was growing up, I knew my heritage and background but I seldomly made personal connections to the literature that was read to my classmates and me.  As a young child, I remember being exposed to stories about Dick and Jane by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp; do not me get wrong, I really enjoyed these stories, they are my old time favorites.  Not knowingly as child, I would draw my characters with blonde hair instead black or brown, and with fair skin color instead of brown.  As for me, that was normal, I never gave it much thought; but in all honesty, I was a young child who did not relate my pictures to my own identity; so what is the big deal?

Well, the big deal is that young children should be exposed to a variety of literature; especially about their culture.  It is about literature that not only takes them to places that they have never been to; but also, it is literature that will allow them to a make a connection from a personal experience as well.




The “Literature” status of children’s literature.

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

by M.R. Graham

books-69469_640The “Literature” status of children’s literature has long been not merely the subject of debate, but often a point of feud. Many in the industry and surrounding the industry – book critics, authors, agents, and English professors across the country – seem to see children’s literature as something less: less complex, less beautiful, less intelligent. Less important. The argument seems to be that children’s literature must be inferior in some way because adults read it easily, as though quality were to be gauged not by depth or humanity, but by ability to confound. Others argue that children’s literature is “watered down” in its portrayal of the human experience, often glossing over the darker moments of death and loss – not merely an inaccurate criticism, but an unfair one, as though whimsy has no place in the exploration of the human condition. Chaucer wrote comedy, as did Molière. Why choose to live at all, if not for the moments of brightness? Can literature not be a celebration at times? A perpetual dirge is exhausting.

Our error is in viewing literature like a journey, with a beginning and a final destination. The child begins with what is appropriate for her, and though she may love and enjoy it, there is always the understanding that she must someday move on to something “better”, something closer to the end. She may progress through Young Adult, the recently-introduced New Adult, genre fiction, literary fiction, to finally reach… what? What is the final destination, the elusive “true Literature”? Is it that which is universally relevant? Nothing is universally relevant; humankind is too diverse, and any text can only approach universality. Is it that which endures? Children’s literature is a relatively new phenomenon, but many works already seem well on their way to endurance. What about Dr. Seuss, or, older still, the fairy tales recorded by the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, immortalized by Disney?

There are children’s works that are relevant to no one, that will be forgotten in a decade, that are truly simple and shallow and without lasting worth. The same is true of work written with adults in mind. Certainly there are books that are not Literature, at least not as the critics define it, but to pass judgement on every volume in so vast and varied a category is arrogance. Those who proclaim that children’s literature is not Literature place too much value in their own preference.

Literature is not the final destination of a mapped journey, but every step taken in our lifelong textual wanderings.

Promoting Biliteracy Development Through Multicultural Literature

This semester students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

La Lectura, un mundo para descubrir

By Julie Cuevas

Given the changing demographics in the United States, multicultural literature (books) must be available in all classrooms. The presence of these books suggests that teachers value other languages and cultures. Multicultural literature is an effective resource for increasing students’ awareness of diversity of cultures and languages by exposing them to different traditions, life styles, stories, cultures and languages. Bilingual books can play an important part in supporting English Language Learners’ native and second language development as well as bi-literacy development. Children who learn to read in their native language do not need to relearn to read in English, instead print knowledge and literacy skills transfers from the native language to English. Research supports that literacy in the student’s first language facilitates student’s development of proficiency in their native and second language, following academic success, and high levels of self-confidence and biliteracy ability. As a result, supporting the development of biliteracy is crucial in preparing students from minority language backgrounds to succeed in educational settings.

For English language learners, having opportunities to read materials in their first language can serve to affirm and value their native language and culture, as well as value them as good readers, even though they may struggle when they read English. The benefits of integrating multicultural literature in the native language of students increase their enthusiasm and reading comprehension. Similarly, monolingual students can also benefit from having access to a vast array of reading materials in different languages and representing different cultures. The presence of such reading materials sends clear messages to all students of the value and appreciation that their school and teachers attach to other languages and cultures.

Due to the importance of integrating a wide variety of multicultural books in classroom libraries, below is a list of books that can be included;

Books with the complete text in two languages

My diary from... My Diary from Here to There by Amada Irma Perez






Playing Loteria Playing Loteria/El Juego de la Loteria by Rene Colato Lainez






Books that switch between languages (English/Spanish – Code switching)

Chato and the party.... Chato and the Party Animals by Gary Soto






CCrazy Mixed up Spanglish day...razy Mixed-up Spanglish Day by Marisa Montes






Books in English, interspersed with words or phrases in another language

 TThe Rainbow Tuliphe Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora






How tia Lola came to stay How Tia Lola Came to Stay by Julia Alvarez






Books available only in a language other than English.

Una Noche inolvidable... Una Noche Inolvidable by Robert & Estrella Menchaca






EL tapiz de mi abuela... El Tapiz de mi Abuela by Omar Castaneda






Multicultural literature is an effective tool to foster second language acquisition and biliteracy development for a variety of learners, as well as improve home-school connections, supports family literacy programs, increase children’s awareness of multiculturalism, and encourage reading for pleasure. It is essential to integrate multicultural literature to assist teachers (including monolingual teachers), to promote multiple literacies that broaden student’s perspectives and appreciation of diversity of languages, cultures, and learn of different stories of children around the world.


This semester in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature, students were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Gladys Quintanilla

bookshelfIf you asked me three years ago about whether or not I enjoyed reading eBooks on an electronic device I would respond with a strong “NO.” Three years ago I decided to give into the hype and I purchased my first electronic reading device from Barnes and Noble, the Nook.  I really thought that my life as a reader was going to change and that I would have more options, but I was not satisfied. After about a week, my device was quickly ignored and placed on my bookshelf with no electric charge.  Around that time, I was given the opportunity to teach 6th grade reading (I was teaching science three years ago). It took me awhile to become adjusted to my new curriculum and I am still developing as an effective reading teacher.

Why am I sharing this information, you might ask?  I now prefer reading all my favorite novels, magazines, newspapers, etc., on my tablet.  Not only have I become accustomed to reading on my device, but I have been incorporating eBooks in my classroom.  I would like to share the reasons and the advantages of why I think you should love eBooks as much as I do…

1. In the Classroom

Recently, in my classroom I have been incorporating eBooks with a few of my students.  Of course, we must always consider the costs of the devices and the availability of them in our classroom. However, I have recently been looking for grants for extra help to provide electronic resources in class.   One example of how I have incorporated EBooks is with one specific student who refused to pick up a chapter book.  He is an awesome student; however because of his history of failure in reading standardized tests, he is not confident.  I decided to introduce him to a book using my tablet.  He felt very special since I took the time to do that.  He became so excited with the book that he lost the fear of reading chapter books.  Also, the librarian has a few Kindle devices that are available for checkout.  I incorporated these with my Book Club members recently and some of them are saving money to purchase one for the summer.  As educators, we need to foster the love of reading and what better way than to introduce them with technology!

2. Delivered Instantly

EBooks, as soon as you purchase them, are delivered instantly to your electronic device.  Not only do I have my eBooks on my tablet, but I also have them on my iPhone, and when possible I catch up on my reading at the doctor’s office, restaurant, or at the beach, which is my favorite.  So, if you see me on my iphone, I am not always texting!

3. Evolving

EBooks are also constantly evolving with new features. For example, I am currently reading the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth, which I highly recommend, and one of the EBooks has exclusive interviews with the author, videos, and interactive features installed with the purchase of the book.  Not only with fictional novels, but let’s say for example you like to cook, a cookbook might include videos with a chef demonstrating the recipe.

4. Environment Friendly

Obviously, if you purchase eBooks you are contributing to the environment in a positive way.  The publishing companies do not have to spend so much on paper, and book binding.  So, the next time that you visit the bookstore to enjoy a cup of coffee, make sure that you have your device charged and ready for entertainment.