Did you know that early exposure to reading has a profound influence on children’s learning throughout their life? A child who has a parent read aloud to them gains a head start on language skills and literacy, as well as much needed cuddle time.
The great news is that the benefits of reading to babies and toddlers lasts a lifetime.
When you read aloud to your child, you provide them with background knowledge about their world, which helps them make sense of what they see, hear, and experience. Toddlers and babies are exposed to new words, people, places, and ideas.
Here are 6 benefits of reading to toddlers and babies. Each benefit includes recommended books to enjoy with your young child. Most of the recommended books are available as both a board book or a paperback edition, allowing use by both toddlers and babies.
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Enhances Literacy Skills
Children who are read to regularly as infants and toddlers develop a strong foundation of literacy skills, better preparing them for kindergarten.
Literacy skills are the skills needed for reading and writing. They include an awareness of the sounds in language, the print used, and the relationship between the letters and sounds.
Explicit teaching does not have to occur when parents are reading. A young child’s brain is like a sponge, absorbing all of the information that they see, hear, and feel during their time together reading. Having a strong foundation of words, tone, rhyme, vocabulary, and print gives them a head start on their literacy development.
The following books offer captivating illustrations with repetitive rhyming text, full of high-level vocabulary. The repeated rhymes and unique word choice create a text that engages young children while developing their literacy skill set.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
Pete The Cat by James Dean
Promotes Comprehension and Understanding
Reading books with babies and toddlers provides opportunities for children to wonder and ask questions. As children begin to develop their language skills, you will find them asking “why” when listening to a story.
This is because they are wanting to gain an understanding of how and why events happen. They begin to understand emotions and the relationship between cause and effect. As new vocabulary words are introduced, toddlers begin to understand more about the world around them.
These recommended texts engage young children in understanding the feelings of themselves and those around them. Toddlers will want to comprehend “why” the characters look, feel, or act in certain ways based on the circumstances of the story.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
Families by Rena D. Grossman
Improves Concentration and Focus
Another benefit of reading to toddlers and babies is the improvement to concentration skills developed while sitting together and enjoying a book.
Most babies and toddlers tend to be in constant motion as they learn about the world around them. Reading together allows a young child to begin learning how to control their bodies and concentrate on a calm task for a short period of time.
This is a valuable skill needed for success in school. Often times, a favorite book can help a child unwind when they are very active, tired, bored, or grumpy.
All of these books are lively stories that children will enjoy listening to again and again. After hearing the story several times, toddlers will enjoy “reading” the book all by themselves. This helps create a positive habit of concentrating and focusing while reading.
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
The Wide Mouthed Frog by Kevin Faulkner and Jonathan Lambert
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
Mommies Say Shhh! by Patricia Polacco
Allows for Imagination and Creativity
Books open a whole new world to babies and toddlers. Literature allows young children to explore people, places, times, and events beyond their own experiences.
As toddlers begin to see that astronauts and dinosaurs exist in their stories, they begin to roleplay through their experiences with a book. Toddlers can dream big, based on stories, wanting to be a superhero, trash collecting, dog walker when they grow up.
Their young minds are now open to endless possibilities. Additionally, the illustrations pull toddlers into the story, allowing them to create their own “stories” with crayons, paint, or sidewalk chalk.
Each story recommended below engages children’s creativity and imagination, showing them that the possibilities are endless and that mistakes are part of the process.
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
Harold and The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw
Provides Opportunities for Bonding
The greatest gift that parents can give to their child is time. Reading creates opportunities for quality time spent together.
Reading together can start in infancy and last well into a child’s teen years. While babies may not be able to understand and process the words being read to them by a parent, they love to hear familiar voices and be held close.
Toddlers, however, are able to understand the words being spoken to them by their parents. They thrive on time together and listening to their parents talk with them.
Reading can be done almost anywhere. Waiting in a doctor’s office, flying on an airplane, or cuddled together in bed.
Parents can create a routine where reading books happen each day before naptime or bedtime, but it can also happen spontaneously throughout the day.
This is the greatest “genre” of books – the books meant to pull at your heartstrings as you share stories that show your child just how much they are loved.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boyton
Counting Kisses by Karen Katz
That’s Me Loving You by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Solve a Problem
A final benefit of reading to toddlers and babies is that high-quality books can help children solve problems. These books help them figure out solutions to everyday complications that arise. They can also help children deal with worries.
When a child is struggling with typical developmental issues such as hitting, leaving their parents to attend preschool, or sharing with their friends, books exemplify positive ways to handle a particular situation.
When a parent talks to a child about a situation, the child seldom connects the “lesson” to their life. However, when a familiar story is shared, the child can see themselves in the characters.
These books all focus on a character working through a feeling or emotion that a toddler will relate to. By seeing the characters properly handle the difficult situation, your child will reference the character in their time of need.
Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dowdney
How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends by Jane Yolen
Hands Are Not For Hitting by Martine Agassi Ph.D. and Marieka Heinlen
Be sure to take this list with you the next time you visit your local bookstore or library. Snuggle up with your precious baby and create lasting memories while enjoying a favorite book.
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About the Author:
Colleen Wildenhaus is the mother of a 13-year-old girl suffering from severe anxiety and OCD. Her blog Good Bye Anxiety, Hello Joy shares with readers the journey her family takes to enjoy the small moments each day, keeping the beast of anxiety from taking away the joy of life.
Colleen became frustrated with medical and self-help books available to parents; while they offered suggestions, many were out of touch with reality. Through her blog, she shares the day to day struggles of parenting a child with anxiety, offering guidance, encouragement, and hope to parents.
In addition to being a mother and writer, Colleen is a former elementary teacher who holds two Master’s Degrees in Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She draws from her expertise as an educator to coach parents and teachers in ways to make school successful for children with anxiety.
Beyond writing, Colleen finds happiness in life’s simple joys — her children’s laughter, waves crashing on the beach, the wide-eyed excitement when students experience an “ah-ha!” moment, and fresh baked cookies.