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.

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