It’s not just reading, it’s talking, too

The top 3 tips for teaching toddlers:

  • Ask questions.
  • Respond to their answers.
  • Praise them for a job well done!

Toddlers can take their first key steps toward reading!

They love the chance to practice the words they are learning. Wrap them up in the reading experience by asking questions and letting them talk to you about stories as you read. Young children learn best when they are actively involved.

  • Ask questions that encourage your child to talk about the story.
  • Ask “what“ questions. Point to a picture in the book and say, “What‘s this?“ or What‘s that called?“
  • As your toddler gets a little older, ask questions that can‘t be answered with just one or two words. For example, if you ask, “What‘s that?“ your child may only say, “A dog.“ But if you ask, “What‘s happening in this picture?“ your child will talk about many things.
  • Try asking “What do you think will happen next?“ or questions that start with “What if?“ These powerful questions will make your child think about what might happen and give you a longer answer. This builds language and thinking skills.

Respond to their answers.

  • If your child names an object in a book, a cow, for instance, ask a simple question about it. “What color is the cow?“ or “What‘s the cow doing?“ or “What do we drink that comes from cows?“
  • Build on simple thoughts. If your child says, “The cat is chasing the dog,“ you can say, “Yes, the cat is chasing the dog around the tree.“ But keep it short so they can repeat what you‘ve said.
  • Praise them for a job well done!
  • Smile, touch and encourage your child. Let them know that they‘re doing well by saying, “That‘s right, good job!“
  • Tell them their answer is correct by using it in a complete sentence: “Yes, the cow is brown!”
  • If your child can‘t answer a question, that‘s okay! Say the answer yourself and ask your child to repeat what you‘ve said. Your love and patience will encourage them to keep trying.

Make the story real.

  • After reading Harold and the Purple Crayon, give you child a purple crayon to draw with. Read I Went Walking, then take a walk and talk about the things you see together.

This information was developed as part of the library's 2005 Every Child a Reader initiative, supported by a $158,625 grant. Funding for this grant was awarded by the Illinois State Library (ISL), a Division of the Office of Secretary of State, using funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), under the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).