Exciting. Animated. Exploratory. Rewarding. These aren’t usually the adjectives we use for the everyday activity of reading, but they can definitely define reading to toddlers, and they should!
How to Make Reading Exciting and Interesting for Toddlers
Studies continue to show that reading to toddlers is linked to their later academic success . I would like to share with you some interactive methods of reading to this age group. As you practice, the skills you develop will also help you in other activities, such as telling jokes, sharing stories, playing party games, teaching, and preaching, acting, and performing skits .
Why am I qualified to talk to you about reading to toddlers? When my niece was two-years-old, I kept her for forty hours a week during the entire summer. Much of our time was devoted to reading and learning to recognize letters. I guess you could say I’ve worked in reading. Through my experiences, I learned the following methods to make reading exciting for toddlers: use sounds, add actions , and involve the audience .
Using sound is the first method we discuss, because it is impossible to read a story without using sound. You can include three main types of sound for reading to toddler s. The first type of sound is saying the words on the pages aloud. This seems obvious, but as toddlers come to love a story, they may ask you to read it over and over again. The temptation may be to tell the short version of the story, but toddlers will notice when you skip parts. Doing so shows them that you just want to get reading over with, and your attitude towards reading will more than likely affect their attitude towards reading. Show that your attitude is positive by reading the entirety of the text.
The second type of sound is really a variation of the first. Speaking with different voices for the different characters in the story can make the story come alive for your little one. Not only will this indicate who is speaking, but how they are speaking. Use these different voices to show the personality and emotion of the characters.
The third type of sound is creating special sound effects. The best way to build upon your repertoire of special sound effects is to practice. Practice these aloud:
Old men laughing
A galloping horse
One reason sound effects are so effective is because they are a break in the steady flow of your reading voice. As you know, toddlers do not have a very long attention span. By breaking up the flow of reading with a sound effect here and there, you can ensure that the toddler will stay interested.
Sound makes the foundation for oral reading, but using actions to tell a story builds upon this basic foundation. Actions can give a concrete picture for activities with which toddlers are unfamiliar and show them that reading is an active activity.
Performing actions can help toddlers visualize what is happening in the story. Actions can also show toddlers that you take reading actively. Don’t be afraid to stand up or move around in order to show toddlers certain activities. Toddlers like to move around, and they will not consider the transition a distraction from the story, as long as it is relative to the story; they will probably want to join in with you, and we will discuss that soon.
Actions contribute to storytelling by showing toddlers what they are hearing about and by convincing the toddlers that you are actively involved in the reading process.
Involving the Audience
So far, we have laid foundation of reading, which is sound, and then set the actions upon the sound. If I had to give a name for our next method of reading to toddlers, I would call it the door into this building we have established.
Toddlers must walk into the door of reading and become active in their approach to it. You can help open the door by encouraging audience participation. Your part in this process of reading is not enough; reading to a toddler should not be a one-man show.
Why should you encourage toddlers to be active in reading? One day, they will be able to read on their own; they will no longer depend on you for help. The sooner they understand that they must be active in reading, the better, and the more likely they will be active readers later in life.
How can you encourage audience participation of toddlers? Ask questions about the meanings of words, the pictures on the pages, and the plot of the story. Let the toddler help turn pages. Let the toddler practice saying big words . Let them join you in your sounds and your actions. Establishing an environment of participation can help the toddler approach reading actively in both a mental sense and a physical sense.
Your Imagination is the Limit
The three methods we have discussed, using sound, adding actions, and involving the audience, are methods I have seen work on a first-hand basis. Practicing these methods will help you improve in reading to toddlers and in preparing them for their future in school. Toddlers are a captive and uncritical audience, so jump in with an attitude of expectation and boldness. Toddlers will be dazzled just to have someone willing to read to them. As a disclaimer, these methods are not comprehensive, for the limits of storytelling stretch as far as your imagination.