How to choose a book for your toddler

Browsing library shelves and bookstore stacks to find a meaningful selection for a toddler can be daunting. Since children this age can’t read, you need a story with clear words that you can read aloud. What type of books interest toddlers? How often should you read to yours?

Research shows that even very young children benefit when parents read to them. Kids who were read to three times or more often each week in the years leading up to kindergarten continued to demonstrate strong reading and critical thinking skills into the elementary grades and beyond, consistently outpacing children who did not get read to.

If you’re wondering what type of book to get, here are some guidelines that may help:

  1. Browse the toddler’s, preschool, or “my first book” section at the library, shop, or store. Dozens of books will compete for your attention, so begin by getting a sense of what is available. You may want to let your little one browse, too, and perhaps select a title for herself.
  2. Check the cover’s age labeling. Many, if not most, books suggest a compatible reading age for the book. “Ages 1 to 3” might be the suggestion or something to that effect. If the book that you or your child chooses does not indicate an age range, ask the librarian or store manager for information. Many employees who frequently handle children’s books can recommend age-appropriate selections for your child.
  3. Examine the theme. Is the book about a topic your son or daughter will enjoy, such as trains, puppies, cars, or flowers? Scan the story to see how the story plays out. Most books of this type are short and easy to read, so you can quickly see if the storyline seems appropriate.
  4. What’s the point? All literature should offer the main idea, or final point, that can help to convey a useful truth. It may be simply that the things we love change. Sometimes they go away or die. Or it may emphasize nature’s beauty or a grandparent’s love. Check to see how the book concludes. Is it a point your child is ready for? Will he or she be able to understand and appreciate this wisdom, perhaps after several readings?
  5. Look at syntax and style. Are sentences short and clear in meaning? Are vocabulary words able to be understood by children in this age group? A few more sophisticated words aren’t bad since they teach young children to ask questions about things they don’t understand and stretch their comprehension. But too many large words may simply confuse or bore your child.
  6. Are the pictures attractive? They should invite your child’s eyes to concentrate on the words being spoken aloud by the reader. The images should enhance the story’s meaning by playing on the child’s creativity and imagination. Dull, lifeless pictures, or those too generic to relate to the story may not be valuable.
  7. Is the book durable? A strong, solid binding and vinyl or plastic, non-toxic cover are best for this book group. Cardboard covers and thin paper pages will tear or blot easily. Children often love to hear the same story over and over, so it should be ready to last through multiple readings.

Make reading time an opportunity for bonding with your child. Set aside other distractions, sit down together, and open the cover to discovery. Both of you will enjoy the rich memories that follow for years to come.

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