How to Read to Children of Different Ages

by Elle McCann

Reading to children is a great way to build literacy and language skills. Reading will boost your child’s brain development, your bond and so much more. With a storybook in hand and your child next to you, you can head off to magical reading escapades. With these expert tips, we will tell you how to engage your baby, toddler, and preschooler with the same book.

Reading to a baby

Infants can look at colorful pages, point to objects, and listen to your voice when you read to them. You might think reading a complex book made for older kids is not for babies, but infants benefit from hearing the kind of books you’d read to a toddler or a preschooler. Reading long sentences makes it easier for them to pay attention and helps them understand the tempo of the language. Guide your baby by pointing to pictures and saying the names of several objects. This will not only draw a child's attention, but also teach him the importance of language from a very young age.

Don’t be surprised if they grab the book and begin to nibble on it or physically explore it, babies love to examine and manipulate things at this age.


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Reading to a toddler

Reading books to a toddler expands their understanding of their surroundings and excites their imagination. When reading to a toddler, you’ll still want to point at colorful pictures and label them, but in return, you’ll see them respond by making a sound, gesturing, or imitating the words or sentences. 

Little kids feel competent when they can participate so ask them simple questions such as “where is the black cat?” or “where is the bluebird?” when a toddler responds it helps them develop listening skills and prepares them to recognize and understand the written word. Encourage them to turn pages, repeat phrases, make sounds, and point out objects they can recognize. Parents can also ask questions about what is in a book to help retain a toddler’s memory.


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Reading to a preschooler

When you read to a preschooler keep these tips in mind

  • Words and pictures are different. Point to the picture when you explain the picture and point to the words as you read them aloud.
  • Follow with your finger as you read. Tell them words go across the page from left to right.
  • Every word written in the book has a meaning. We read to understand the story that is written.
  • Words are a formation of letters and are separated by a space.
  • Focus on pre-reading skills. Read small texts on illustrations like the name of a color or a sign like “go” or “stop’ for example to teach young readers that words are meaningful.

Your preschooler must have gotten familiar with the story by now, encourage them to tell you what happens next. For example, with the hungry caterpillar, you could pause when the caterpillar goes inside the cocoon and ask “what happens next?’  Try and use the story to have a back-to-back conversation. Talk about objects you read about in the story or see in the illustrations. 

Many preschoolers love to be creative through storytelling; so ask them to read the story to you instead of you reading the story to them.

When the tune and rhythm of the same book will become a part of a child’s life through different stages, learning to read and enjoy the same book will be as natural as learning to walk and talk.

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