We’ve seen suggestions for supporting literacy across the ages and for infants, now let’s move on to the terrific toddlers! You can continue to use most of the tips from infancy – such as singing songs, keeping books everywhere and reading the same book over and over again – as well as more age specific tips. Try implementing these suggestions that will help foster toddler language and literacy development:
1. Become the narrator: What better way for a toddler to hear and learn new words, both expressive and receptive, then by hearing you talk about the day?! Tell your toddler about what is going on throughout the day; “Let’s pull your sweater over your head. Peek-a-boo! There you are!” Verbally label and count things throughout the day; “We are having green grapes for snack. You have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-five green grapes!”
2. Home library: Create an area in your house specific for your toddler to be able to use anytime to look at books. With both of my children, I took a corner, put two bookshelves, baskets of books, pillows, and a child size rocking chair. The baskets and bookshelves are devoted specifically to children’s books. Allow your toddler to use this area as a quiet area for looking at books or just to take a break from the everyday bustle of life.
3. Visit your local library Many local libraries have a Children’s Department where they offer story times, puppet shows, and summer reading clubs. Start taking your toddler to the library to create an early love of the library. The story times I have been to include songs, nursery rhymes and other fun activities for children under 5. It’s not only a great chance to foster a love of books, but a chance to interact with other children!
4. Repeat after me Provide opportunities throughout reading with your toddler for them to repeat words or phrases that you are reading. Also, leaving off the last word of a sentence (especially in rhyming books) and having your toddler chime in is an excellent way to build vocabulary, confidence, and pre-reading skills! One of our favorite books is Goodnight Moon. As I read it, I leave out the last word of a sentence while pointing to it in the picture. For example, I read, “Goodnight light and the red…”, then I point to the balloon and my son chimes in, “Balloon!”
5. Repeat after them Throughout the day, when your toddler says things to you in one or two word phrases, repeat it back to them in a sentence. If your toddler hands you a book and says, “Book.”, put that thought into a complete sentence, “You want me to read you this book about dinosaurs.” Maybe your toddler is playing with a tiger and says, “ROAR!”, repeat back, “The tiger roars-ROAR!”
6. Handle without care Have a variety of books that your toddler can handle independently without completely destroying. Allow your toddler to turn the pages while you’re reading together-back and forth and back again. It’s OK if you never actually make it through the book. It’s important for a toddler to learn book handling skills such as holding a book right side up and turning pages. Board books are a great way to introduce this, but move on to some paperback books. Like I suggested in the infancy post, buy some books second hand. Then they can be handled and loved as much as possible without guilt.
7. Make reading important If you make reading an important part of your life, it will be important to your toddler as well. As I’ve mentioned in the other posts about literacy, read daily. Nothing is more important then sharing a love of books with your child. It’s more then hearing a story, it’s a time for closeness, building fond memories, and enjoying each other.
Read more about literacy development: