Storybook guidelines for almost-three-year-olds

There’s nothing quite like snuggle time, especially when it includes a favorite book. Regular storytime is an activity both parents and toddlers look forward to and treasure each day. Daily reading with Baby sets the foundation for lifelong learning, independent reading, and helps to increase language and literacy skills.

How to choose books for this age

This is an exciting age for reading and choosing books together. As your child approaches their third birthday, let them pick out the majority of the books you read together, whether that means going to the library together and allowing them to choose three to five books to check-out or giving them an allowance and heading to your local bookstore so they can buy their own book.

Kids this age love to handle books and turn the pages. It’s not uncommon to see a toddler carrying their book around – in the car, to older siblings’ sports practices, and to the store. Reading is a major milestone and one that your almost-three-year-old will most likely feel very proud of.

Toddlers tend to gravitate to books that are short and tell simple stories about animals, cars and trucks, adventures, other kids their age, favorite activities, families, and books that reinforce what they are learning. And while there are thousands of best-sellers, a few seem to top the favorite list more than others. Guess how much I love you by Sam McBratney; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault; Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Wilems; Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown; The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle; Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle; We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury; Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw and Margot Apple; and of course anything Dr. Seuss!     

When and how to read to toddlers

The best time to read with your child is the time that works for you. Read before nap and bedtime, while waiting in the doctor’s office, or anytime you both need some snuggle time. Aim for an hour a day, broken into smaller chunks. Some kids can manage sitting for 30 minutes while you read to them, while others, can’t make it past the first page. If your toddler struggles to sit still, don’t force it.

Most two- and three-year-olds need to wiggle, and focusing too much on making them sit down will take away from the experience and may lead to a toddler resenting storytime. Instead, offer your toddler something to hold while you read, or allow them to stand next to you. Let them color or draw. Sit at the table and read them a story while they're eating. If you are the passenger in a car, try reading a short book aloud during the drive. There are countless ways to involve your active child in reading that don’t always include sitting still.

And if it seems like Baby is more interested in the illustrations and pictures than the words, they probably are. Remember, the images tell the story. Ask them to look at the pictures and tell you what is going on. Read the words on the page and then go back and have them explain how the picture tells the story. Spending time with the illustrations will help them connect the story to the images and, chances are, they will return to that book during independent reading time.

I read, you read

Reading aloud to your toddler helps them make the transition from listening to reading. Once they are able to recognize some basic two and three letter words, have them help you when reading together. Point to a word in a sentence that they know, and ask them to say it. As they become familiar with a story, they will be able to anticipate what is coming and even have a few sentences memorized. Encourage them to “read” the pages they know, while you point to the words. This will help them connect what they are saying to what the word looks like on paper.

Make sure they know that reading is not only a two-person activity. Encourage them to “read” on their own at least 15 to 30 minutes a day. Create a special space for them to read with a beanbag or cushion and a basket of books. It’s also a good idea to have books in several locations of the house. And of course, one of the most effective ways to encourage reading is to do it yourself. Baby needs to see you reading for pleasure. Consider doing independent reading together: not only does this lead to lifelong readers, but it also allows you to have quiet time right alongside your snuggle buddy!

About the author:

Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer focusing on parenting, health, and wellness. She is passionate about all things fitness and health and loves spending time with her husband, daughter, and son. 

  • Carol A. Quick. “Toddler Reading Time.” Kids Health. The Nemours Foundation, May 2013. Retrieved August 22 2017.
  • “Help Your Child Enjoy Reading Aloud: Tips for Parents.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved August 22 2017. 
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