It is never too early to teach good reading behaviors. Simple pre-reading skills such as knowing how to handle a book, turn the page, and explore the pictures are essential in early literacy development. If your child has a natural curiosity for reading take advantage of the opportunity to introduce letters and individual letter sounds (phonemes). For toddlers reluctant to sit with you, introduce reading as part of your bedtime routine or pique their interest by selecting books on their favorite topic.
How you interact with a book is just as important as how frequently you expose your toddler to literature. Here are some suggestions for reading aloud with your child:
Take a picture walk. Before you dive into the story take a few minutes to look at the cover and make predictions about what is going to happen in the story. Ask your toddler what evidence (clues) makes them suggest a particular thing might happen. You can further explore the story by browsing through the images inside the cover, looking for clues in the pictures about where the story might take you. Don't want to spoil the ending? Leave out the last page or two from your picture walk.
Make a personal connection to the text. Help your child think about how they can personally relate to the story, characters, setting, plot, etc. Children find the most meaning when they relate with a story and the ability to make connections is a comprehension skill that will help them as they eventually learn to read independently.
Activate background knowledge. Brainstorm with your toddler about what he/she might already know about the topic. Reading about an animal? Think about when/if you saw that particular animal on your last trip to the zoo. What did it look like? What other information do you already have on the topic or theme you are about the explore in this new book?
Make predictions along the way. As you read, encourage your child to think about and add to the predictions you have made. How does your prediction change with the story? Ask open-ended questions that will encourage your child to use clues from the story to consider what might happen next.
Most importantly share your own love of reading with your StrongTot. Children like to mimic behaviors of their parents; making time each day for reading as a family is a good way to model this important lifelong skill.