Toddlers and board books go together—both are durable, come in easy to handle packages, and are found in a variety of shapes and sizes. The main thing to keep in mind about reading with toddlers is that it has more to do with pointing and talking than with sitting still and listening.

There are many great options for toddler books. Board books fall into two categories: storybooks and content books. A good toddler storybook often shows the sequence of common routines—such as bedtime, taking a walk, or bath time. Helen Oxenbury’s Tom and Pippo series is a great example. A toddler and his imaginary companion, a sock monkey, go through simple activities together under the loving care of mom and dad. While reading storybooks, take time to talk about what is happening and make connections to what your family does that is either the same or different. Books that incorporate touching and feeling, like Pat the Bunny and any book with flaps, create moments for interaction that are ideal for this age.

Board books by Sandra Boyton combine humorous stories with learning concepts, such as animal sounds, and opposites. Your child’s ability to remember and her vocabulary are growing tremendously, and books that introduce first words and emotions feed her desire for information. The structure of a book helps her organize what she is learning. (It is a good idea to save alphabet and counting books for another year or so.)

Parents read to share their own love of books, to bond with their child, to stimulate their child’s language development (among other great reasons). All of these goals can be reached with a toddler by following these recommendations.

How to encourage reading in a toddler:

  • Keep durable books in a visible and easy-to-access location
  • Allow your child to choose what to read whenever possible
  • Provide your child a variety of books—story, learning, humorous, rhyming books
  • Build several moments for reading into your daily routine
  • Resist taking away reading time as a consequence. (“Mommy will not read a bedtime story tonight if…)
  • Limit television viewing

How to manage reading with a toddler:

  • Be willing to read only parts of a book and pages out of order
  • Read when asked
  • Let your child hold the book and turn the pages
  • Sit close to your child, as much as possible, while reading

While you are fostering a love of books, disregard the commonly held idea that you must read to your child for a set amount of time (20 minutes) in one sitting everyday, or that you are a failure if you can’t get your toddler to sit still to “read.” Home literacy has a lot to do with having dynamic conversation, using a varied vocabulary, and modeling a love of reading. If, in your literacy rich home, you continue to make books available and offer to read on a routine basis, your child will take interest. At some point, the momentum to read together will shift from you to your child…and then be ready to sit down with a pile of picture books.

By Anne Oxenreider