creating a literacy rich home part 4: tips for reading with toddlers + best books for toddlers 2-3

essential pre-reading skills for toddlers // #literacy #parenting #books

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In this creating a literacy rich home series, we’ve talked about:

This week we’re going to talk about toddlers. 

I’ll share a few pre-literacy reading tips for toddlers, then share my list of 15 must-haves.

tips for raising kids that read // #literacy A few pre-literacy tips for toddlers:

  • Keep lap-time short, but don’t underestimate their intelligence.
    Toddlers are curious! They’re full of energy! And, they have short attention spans. So, don’t get frustrated if your toddler doesn’t want to sit for more than one or two books at a time. Build up to it. As they get older, & as you are consistent with showing them how *fun* & exciting reading is, they’re attention span will grow. My older toddler boys (3 year olds) could sit for long stretches, but when they were just barely 2 years old, they were more interested in jumping and running around. They loved books, but only in 5 minute increments.
  • Look for books that have one or two sentences on each page.
    Use your toddler’s finger to point to things & words & say them out loud. Have your toddler repeat what you said. Keep it light & playful. Your 3 year old toddler will most likely be able to sit for much longer stretches than they did when they were 2 & read longer books, but keep in mind every child is different.
  • Introduce the elements of a book.
    Show your toddler a book. Explain to them what the cover is. Show them pages & say, these are the pages & this is how we read books (demonstrate how to read & turn pages). This may seem obvious to us, but to a toddler just learning, it’s a great intro into what books are.
  • Teach respect for books.
    Teach your toddler how to properly care for books (no coloring, cutting, or stepping on books). Show her/him how to put books away after they’re done reading them.
  • Teach by example.
    Show your toddler that you love books by reading yourself! Your reading time is just as important as their reading time. Make sure you’re getting a daily dose of reading (& not just online), preferably in front of your toddler.

best books for toddlers 2-3 // #literacy #parenting Best books for toddlers 2-3

2 year old toddlers

Let’s Count Goats!, by Mem Fox
This is a silly & fun “learning to count” book with simple, bright illustrations by Jan Thomas. I also recommend any of Jan Thomas’s books.

Pip & Posy: The Super Scooter, by Axel Scheffler
I think the Pip & Posy series is a great one for toddlers. Each book introduces different social skills, particularly aboutfriendship & interactions with others.

Trains, a lift-and-look book from Usborne
2 year olds love lifting and looking! This book is a part of series of books that also includes dinosaurs, trucks, planes, tractors, under the sea, & construction sites. These books are sturdy board books that help ease the transition from baby books to toddler books.

Ten Little Fingers, by Annie Kubler
Fun finger play, which is an important part of pre-literacy. I like all of Annie Kubler’s finger play board books.

Spot’s Birthday Party, by Eric Hill
This is a lift-the-flap book & is simple, fun. All Eric Hill’s Spot books are winners.

My First Word Book, Usborne
This is a board book that is simple, beautiful, & a joy to read. Over 270 familiar words that include numbers, animals, on the farm, the body, things that go, & bedtime.


3 year old toddlers

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Emma Thompson
Kid’s need to be raised on the tales of Beatrix Potter. This book is an abridged version of the classic tales, a bit easier for younger kids to digest.

Wyken, Blynken, & Nod, by Eugene W. Field
The *perfect* before-bed story.

The Apple Pie That Papa Baked, by Lauren Thompson
Lyrical, poetic. And beautiful, simple illustrations.

Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
This is a Caldacott Honor book. The illustrations are subdued, lovely. The book reads like a poem.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, by Mo Williams
All of Mo Williams books are fun, playful, with simple & clear illustrations. They also encourage reader interaction. I think they read a lot like a dialouge found on Sesame Street, which isn’t surprising since Mo Williams has written for that show. I highly recommend all of his books–they are great for younger children, but especially toddler & pre-K children.

Brush Your Teeth Max & Millie, Usborne
This is part of a toddler books series that teaches about brushing teeth, taking turns, bedtime, & going to school.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Helen Oxenbury
This is a fun rhyme turned into a book with simple & clear illustrations.

Just Grandma & Me, by Mercer Mayer
My toddlers (& even older kids) love all Mercer Mayer’s books. And I do to. Fun, easy reads, engaging illustrations–good for short attention spans.

Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, by Giles Andraea
A heartfelt, touching story with playful rhymes & illustrations.


Do you have any tips or books to add to the list? Please share!


Other posts in the series to check out: 

Part 1: 10 Reasons to Teach the Love of Reading
Part 2: Building a Home Library on a Budget + 15 essential books
Part 3: Why you need to read to your baby + 10 smart baby books



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  3. Carrie
    on June 14, 2014 at 9:07 am said:

    Thanks for this list! I really enjoyed this series! My almost 3 year old usually only sits through Curious George books or a book that rhymes (a la Dr. Suess). She would love that giraffe one 🙂