Making the Most of Storytime

How to help your toddler use books to learn about language and the world he lives in.

Reading will enlarge your child's speaking vocabulary and help him learn to use language to express thoughts. And at 2-years-old your child is developmentally ready to truly discover the pleasure of books. When he was younger, he liked the colors and shapes of the pictures; he enjoyed hearing the sound of your voice, and he loved the intimacy of snuggling at storytime. But now he has the attention span necessary to follow a basic story line. He is also aware of the different characters in a story; he can pick out the details in a scene, and he has a more sophisticated ear for language. Your toddler now uses books to learn more about the world he lives in.

To ensure that you and your toddler get the most out of storytime follow these simple guidelines:

  • Choose the right time. Traditionally bedtime is storytime, but don't get stuck onthis idea if it doesn't work for you. If you're harried or tired at your child's bedtime, you won't feel much like enjoying a good book. Use any time of the day that lets you relax and have fun with reading -- maybe after breakfast or when you, or your spouse, return home from work.
  • Follow your child's lead. Don't make storytime a battle of wills over what book to read and how long to read it. Let your child choose the book, even if it's the same one five days in a row. Let him stop you to ask questions or comment. Let him stop listening when he's tired. Remember your goal is to have a good time with reading.
  • Be dramatic. Don't let your dignity get in the way of your fun. Give each character in the story a different voice. Act out their parts with gusto. Have some fun with each book and pass that joy on to your child.
  • Ask questions. Take time as you read to stop occasionally and engage your child in the story by asking him some questions. You might ask, "Can you find the ball the little boy wants to play with?" "Where is the girl's brother in this picture?" "What kinds of things do people usually see when they go to the zoo?" Children develop their imaginations and reasoning abilities by responding to these kinds of questions.

Books are a great place to encourage a love of reading, but they're not the only reading material that will fascinate your child. Use magazines for "pictures hunts" in which you and your child hunt for pictures of babies or dogs, for example. Give your child your junk mail to open and look through. Point to signs in the store and read them to him. Show him that reading material is everywhere and plays an important part in everyday activities.

From The Parents Answer Book: From Birth Through Age Five, by the editors of Parents magazine. Copyright © 2000 by Roundtable Press and G+J USA Publishing.

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