Reading and storytelling for toddlers are both amazing ways to give your kids the best start on the road to a lifelong love of language and books.
One of the very best parts of my day is when I get to crawl in next to our 3-year-old for reading and storytime. No matter what the day brings us, (and we moms know how some days chaos can reign), this is the close of our day, our routine and our safe spot.
Some nights we read his favorite books of the moment, and yes sometimes the same book every single night, over and over and over… But on other nights, those nights where he can’t seem to settle in for an actual book, we snuggle and do storytelling. Honestly, I am a huge advocate for both.
Why Are Reading And Storytelling Important For Toddlers?
Importance of Reading at Home
The benefits of reading with your kids at home are endless really. When you read to your children you are helping them develop a solid base of listening, conversation and literacy skills that will help prepare them for kindergarten.
Not only will it teach them to read better, but it will also enhance their writing, focus, and concentration down the road. It doesn’t even have to feel like teaching them but as you know, babies and toddlers are like little sponges, soaking up information at every turn.
A Million Word Gap
A study by Ohio State University concluded that there is a million-word gap for children who aren’t read to at home. A MILLION. Pretty mind-blowing right??
The study, published by Science Daily and headed by Professor Jessica Logan Ph.D. summarized that ” Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to, a new study found. This ‘million word gap’ could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development.“
Logan went on to say that “The fact that we had so many parents who said they never or seldom read to their kids was pretty shocking to us. We wanted to figure out what that might mean for their kids.”
Our brains are like complex computer systems and as we read, the neurons fire like mad. The sensory input from the words on the page lights up our brain like a switchboard. How we process everything is really quite amazing and it’s no different for your child. As a matter of fact, reading in the first 3 years of life are crucial for development as that is the age our brains are developing in leaps and bounds!
Exposing your kids to more vocabulary early on through reading and storytelling will better prepare them to see and understand those words in print when they go to school. It will help them develop a thirst for knowledge and the ability to thrive.
Books Can Help Toddlers Deal With Big Emotions
Reading also develops your child’s comprehension skills and helps them to make sense of the world around them. Books that talk about emotions are essential to help them put names to their feelings. They can help a great deal with fears and situations that may arise in your toddler.
Think of books about making friends, sharing, toothbrushing, potty-training, going to the dentist or getting a haircut. All of these life skills that your child needs to learn about can be found in storybooks. Your child may find it easier to relate and think to himself, “Hey! If Daniel Tiger can use the potty, so can I!”
Creates An Excellent Bonding Opportunity
Both reading and storytelling for toddlers is an amazing way to bond and provide your kids with a sense of intimacy and well-being. It’s one of many healthy habits for toddlers that will set them up for success. Create your own little world where you get to be transported into the book together and have amazing adventures, all without leaving the comfort of your cozy reading spot.
How Do You Read A Book To A Child?
Reading With Your Baby: It’s never too early to start!
Reading to babies right from the get-go is the best idea. Even while they are still in the womb you can read to them but don’t worry if you haven’t begun yet. It’s not too late. Some parents might feel silly reading a book to a newborn but it is developing a habit of doing it that is important. Babies 0-3 months old will be looking at the patterns, then colors on the pages as their eyesight develops.
For starters, try simple board books with bold colors and various textures for little fingers to touch and feel. After some time they will start to recognize shapes, letters, and numbers. Of course, they may just want to chew and drool on the book as well. That’s pretty standard. We have many well-worn books around here that look pretty raggedy. It just means they were extra loved!
Remember, at this stage, it’s not just about the book itself, it’s also about just cuddling up with mom or dad in a comfy spot and hearing the sound and tone of your voice.
You could be looking at a picture book about The Grand Canyon, or the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. Really, it won’t matter much to your baby. You are setting them up with a foundation for reading and conditioning them to feel that reading is a positive and enjoyable activity.
Look for rhyming books with repetitive phrases. “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and “Polar Bear, Polar Bear” by Eric Carle are favorites of ours.
Need suggestions for some more awesome books? I’ve compiled a list of 30 fantastic toddler books over at Just Our View From Here.
Makes Books A Part Of Your Normal, Everyday Surroundings
Normalize books, magazines and other reading materials around the house. I know we all read on our phones now but give the technology a rest for a spell.
Let them see YOU reading a book. I remember that my mom and dad both always had one on the go. I can honestly say that I emulated them and they fostered my love of reading. Although these days, with a busy toddler racing around, I don’t have a ton of time to read. I still manage to carve out some reading time for myself.
Tips For Reading With Toddlers
- Turn off the T.V. and find a comfortable spot that’s free from distractions. A cute little reading nook, a rocking chair or simply the living room couch will do just fine.
- Choose a book that both you and your toddler can enjoy, get enthusiastic about reading the story.
- Read slowly to emphasize the sounds of the letters. Get your toddler used to hearing the various sounds and sound combinations.
- Read aloud in an animated manner using inflections in your voice.
- Draw out suspenseful parts of the story to keep them in suspense. Say things along the way like, “Oh my! What do you think will happen next??”
- When you get to the part that is dramatic or surprising, turn to that page quickly. Draw in your breath like you are shocked. Make your best expressive, goofy surprised face. “Grumpy Bird” by Jeremy Tankard is a perfect book for this. (It still makes my son laugh even now… I guess he likes my goofy face best. lol)
- Point out objects on the pages and repeat the name of said objects.
- Run your finger under the words as you read to teach them that the print represents language.
- Have fun!
The Art Of Storytelling
Storytelling is an age-old practice and one of the most powerful forms of teaching.
It allows children to enjoy stories in a different way than watching television or even reading itself. Storytelling adds an element of creativity and encourages active participation. It is more than a technique or a skill set. It is truly an art form that has been around for thousands of years to entertain, share stories and pass down folklore.
What Are The Benefits of Storytelling For Toddlers?
Similar to reading, storytelling for toddlers is a way to open their minds and develop language and listening skills but with an added twist. You, as the storyteller, are the one to capture their attention and imagination. When you tell your child a tall tale filled with action, adventure, and memorable characters, you are stimulating their brains on so many levels.
They can be an active participant in the story in addition to simply listening to your version. It fosters such creativity and allows their imaginations to run wild. Just as the body needs exercise, so does the brain! Of course, just like reading, it enhances learning skills, cultivates concentration and is an excellent way to bond with your child. And let’s not forget the dads out there. The importance of helping Dad bond with the baby musn’t be overlooked!
Not to mention, it is just plain fun. So get your grey matter moving, spin a yarn to tell your little ones and get them thinking outside the box!
Tips On Storytelling For Toddlers
How Do I Become a Good Storyteller?
The good news is, you most likely will have a very forgiving audience. They will likely eat up anything you put out there but if you have absolutely no idea where to start, try these tips.
- Start by using books for storytelling. However, instead of actually reading the books word for word, use it as a guideline to tell your version of the story.
- As your child gets a little older, around 18 months or so, they will begin to understand simple emotion questions. For example, say things such as, how is the boy feeling?… Is he happy?… I think he looks happy!”
- With a little practice, you will start to feel more comfortable to just wing it and make up stories on the fly. Once your toddler is talking they can participate too.
- Tell stories about places you’ve been or people you’ve met. Stories about their lives, your family and things that have happened to them are all great places to start.
- Start with “Once upon a time there was a… and let your child fill in the blanks. Then carry on to “who lived in a… and wanted to go to…” This is a fun way to do it together and you will see your child’s mind working as they search their brain for a new piece of the puzzle.
- You can tell the same story over and over (children LOVE repetition), or branch out to new adventures. The choice is yours! Just relax, enjoy and be in the moment with your child.
Nurture Those Neurons!
It’s one of our many jobs as parents to be our child’s first teacher, and an easy way to start is by focusing on storytelling and reading for our toddlers. Set aside some time during your day, or create a bedtime routine that includes books and stories. Just do whatever works for your family best, and be confident in knowing that you are doing your kids a great justice. Take pride in that.
Reading and telling stories at bedtime really is one of my favorite parts of the day, and yes, I do take pride in the fact that my son is starting to read. But it goes deeper than that. I suppose it’s the togetherness that I love most.
Sometimes when I’m curled up in bed reading with my boy, it hits me. I think about how it won’t always be like this with the lovely baby scent of his hair, and his soft chubby hand holding mine, the “Love you Mama” before he drifts off to sleep. I soak it all in because time passes in the blink of an eye. Yes, I am teaching him, but he is also teaching me… about unconditional love, how to be a mom and the best things about it. I couldn’t ask for more.