How to

Introducing books to babies and toddlers

Baby reading a book From birth to the age of three, children learn an enormous amount of language – even if they do not talk a lot! So, the more stories and books you read to them, the more language they learn.

There is no right or wrong way to use books with babies and toddlers. It is more about enjoying the time you spend together and following their lead in deciding what to try next.

  • Babies and toddlers thrive on playfulness, rhyme, rhythm and repetition. Have lots of light-hearted, language-filled interactions with books and read books that are your child’s favourites again and again!
  • Although you can read anywhere, it’s best to relax and sit comfortably with your child on your lap, or next to you, when you share books.
  • It doesn’t matter for how long you read – and you don’t have to finish the book! Explore a book and communicate together about it for as short or as long as you both want.
  • Make sure that there are times when babies and toddlers can look at books on their own. Board books have rounded corners so that they cannot hurt your child and they are specially made to be chewed, patted and dropped!
  • Talking to your children about the pictures, concepts and what is happening in the book is as important as reading the words on the page. Ask them what they think, and say what you think too. (Saying what you think guides your child in how to explore books.)
  • Listen to, acknowledge and respond to what your child says – this makes the experience interesting for both of you. It also helps grow your child’s language, confidence and self-esteem.
  • Offer your child a choice of books and then be guided by what they want to read. Start by asking, “Shall we look at/read this book?”

Babies and toddlers have moods and prefer some things to others – just like us! Their level of interest in a book will depend on a number of things: what things they like, the time of day and whether they are hungry, tired or have a wet nappy! If your child seems disinterested, don’t give up! Try again later, or in another way – or try another book. Just keep sharing books together.