How to Instill a Love of Reading in Your Toddler

How to Instill a Love of Reading in Your Toddler

You want your toddler to become an avid reader one day, but how can you instill a love of reading in your little one? And what books should you have in your library?


We spoke with toddler mom and Indianapolis-based literacy expert Gail McGee to give you easy, actionable ways you can help your little one not only love books but also develop early reading skills.


She also shared some of her favorite children’s books! Keep reading to learn more!


The Importance of Reading at A Young Age


According to the Literacy Project Foundation, cognitive processes develop at lightning speed in the first few years of life. In fact, 85 percent of your child’s brain is developed by age 3!


That’s why it’s important to get a jump start on literacy at a young age. But it doesn’t have to be complicated!


Gail offered these suggestions:


  • Fill your home with books. Strategically place baskets of books in various rooms, nooks, and spaces around your home.
  • Make sure your library includes a variety of genres.
  • Add props and objects to make reading more interesting. For example, if you plan to read stories about spring, allow your little one to explore bugs, flowers, and rainbows.
  • Create reading routines. Enjoy the illustrations, let your little one turn the pages, and paraphrase or skip pages if necessary.
  • When you read with your child, talk about the setting and characters.
  • Read, sing, and recite poems and nursery rhymes throughout the day. Add actions and movements to engage your littles.
  • Allow your little one to select the book for story time.
  • Practice simple rhymes.



Gail’s Books Recommendations


According to The Literacy Project, in a study of nearly 100,000 U.S. school children, access to printed materials was the key factor affecting reading success.


And reading to your kids at a young age is just as important, because the National Center for Education Statistics found that kids who are read to frequently are more likely than kids who weren’t read to to count to 20 or higher, write their own names, and read or pretend to read.


So it goes without saying that access to books is important!


Gail recommends these general concept books for infants and toddlers:


0-12 months:

  • Black and white books
  • Touch and feel books
  • Flip the flap books
  • Books with mirrors


Example: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear,” by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle


2-3 years of age


  • Board books
  • Rhyming books
  • ABC books
  • Books about colors, numbers, and shapes



  • Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney
  • If you Give a Mouse … (series) by Laura Numeroff
  • The Little Blue Truck series by Alice Schertle
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle


She recommends these titles for older kids.



4-5 Year Olds

  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
  • I like Myself by Karen Beaumont
  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
  • Elephant & Piggie series, Mo Willems
  • The Day the Crayons Quit series by Drew Daywalt



And overall, Gail recommends these favorite authors: David Shannon, Mem Fox, Eric Carle, Angela Johnson, Ezra Jack Keats.


Where to Find Books


Having books around your home is an important key to your child’s reading success, but keeping them on hand doesn’t have to break the bank.


Here are a few free or inexpensive ways to fill those bookshelves!


  • Visit your local library
  • Find a used book store
  • Get free books mailed directly to your home through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
  • Consider swapping books with other families


Wrapping Up


Instilling early literacy skills is an important factor in ensuring your child’s future success. Plus, it offers a great way for you to bond with your little one!


You can inspire a love of reading by keeping a variety of books around your house, incorporating props into your reading routine, and practicing simple rhymes.


And filling those bookshelves doesn’t have to be expensive! Visit your local library or used bookstore, or consider a book swap with another family close by.


If you’d like more tips on early literacy skills, follow Gail McGee on Instagram at @lessonswithmylittle.


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