Sharing books together is the single most important thing that you will do to help your child learn to read. As you share books with your toddler, they are learning that reading is fun. They are also learning new words and early reading skills like how to hold a book and turn the pages.   

In the beginning, your toddler will find it hard to sit and listen to the story. It’s okay if your story time sessions only last a few minutes. Don’t despair! Over time, as you sit together sharing books, your toddler will be able to pay attention for longer periods.  

How to share books with your toddler

Most toddlers are very busy little beings and finding time when they are ready to sit quietly can be tricky. Find times when your child is relaxed, or perhaps even a little sleepy, and cuddle together as you share a book. Try to sit so that you can see both your child’s face and the book. This helps you talk about what they are focusing on.   

Try to make sharing books a part of your everyday routine. Often reading before bedtime is a great way to relax your child and get them ready for sleep. It is also great to pack books in your nappy bag, in the car and in the bottom of the pram. This means that whenever your child is looking for some fun, there is an opportunity to share a well-loved book. Did you know that you can even get waterproof books that you can share in the bath?  

Your toddler will enjoy hearing the same books over and over again as they learn to anticipate what will happen next. And it’s okay if they just want to look at the pictures with you rather than listen to the story. In fact, there are some great books for toddlers that don’t have any words at all!

The important thing is that your child is enjoying sharing books with you and that you are talking together.   

Books toddlers love

Your toddler will enjoy short books with engaging pictures. They will enjoy stories about everyday activities like having a bath or going to the park.

It is a great idea to choose ‘board’ books. These are made out of thick cardboard and are very durable. Your little one can hold the book and turn the pages of these books without any fear of destruction!  

Choose books that: 

  • have characters a similar age to your child 
  • engage your child through a shared interest or captivating illustrations 
  • include animals and the sounds they make 
  • are durable – thick cardboard, cloth or plastic 
  • have flaps, textures and pop-up elements  
Five great books for toddlers
  1. I went walking by Sue Williams & Julie Vivas 
  2. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell 
  3. Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo & Alex Ayliffe 
  4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 
  5. Grandpa and Thomas by Pamela Allen  

Explore more fantastic books to share with your toddler  

Top ten tips for sharing books with toddlers

  1. Help your child choose the book. 
  2. Let your child hold the book and turn the pages. 
  3. Sit so you can see your child’s face and the book. 
  4. Talk about the pictures together. 
  5. Don’t worry about reading all the words. Focus on what your child is interested in. 
  6. Read the same books over and over. 
  7. Visit the library and enjoy story time with your toddler. 
  8. Take books with you everywhere you go. 
  9. Never force your child to listen to a story. If they’re not interested, try again later. 
  10. Find a quiet place to share books together. Turn off your phone, the TV and the radio so there are no distractions.  

Want to know more?

The Hanen Centre – Sharing books with toddlers  

Zero to Three – How to Introduce toddlers and babies to books 

The Raising Children Network – Reading with toddlers  

The little big book club – Books for toddlers