Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Entertaining and Educating your Toddler

It is hard to get my son interested in books.

I am aware of how important it is to read books to my son Sam, who is 16mths. The problem is that, after the first page or two, he shows no interest, wriggles off my lap and starts to play with something else. We have plenty of board books around, but I rarely see him pick one up. I would love books to be part of our day, but am I expecting too much too soon?

Sharing books with small children is a habit to be encouraged, but all too often toddlers will have different ideas. Learning that books are fun can take a while.

Making Sam look at books will just put him off, but even the shortest time with a book on a daily basis will pay off. Often the time between bath and bed is a good slot, or some parents prefer to have a short session in the early morning sharing a book in their bed. In time, Sam will get used to the idea and begin to look forward to story time.

When looking for a book to interest Sam, choose one with bright, clear pictures. Photo and object books have their place on his shelf, but you could now begin to look for books with a simple story line. Toddlers often enjoy rhyming text as they can identify with the rhythm, even if they do not understand every word. Look for simple stories that might interest him. Many small boys love anything to do with tractors, diggers, farms or building sites, or stories of everyday activities that they can relate to. If you have difficulty choosing, parenting magazines often carry book reviews. Or visit your local library, where you can try out different styles and authors without the expense.

Don’t expect to get through a whole storybook in the first sitting, but try to engage Sam’s interest by asking questions such as ” Do you see the digger?” or “Can you point to the dog?” This helps him to actively share in the experience, rather than just having to sit and listen. Another tip is, don’t feel that you have to read every word on each page. Use words he can understand now, or make up your own text as you look at the pictures together. The key is to engage his attention for a short spell each day as he begins to learn how books work and how enjoyable they can be.

There are plenty of interactive books on the market, with tabs and flaps, textures and dials. These may be a more fragile than sturdy board books, but can still be shared together. If he does pull a tab off, perhaps because he isn’t yet dexterous enough, don’t scold him but let him watch while you mend it. Showing him how to respect books is all part of the learning process. Keep these books on a shelf that can only be reached by you. Also, teach Sam how to put his sturdier books back on a low shelf when tidying up, rather than putting them in a toy box.

Sam will also learn by your example. If he sees his parents enjoying books, he is more likely to catch the “bug” himself. Keep a book beside your bed and let him see you enjoying a magazine or a newspaper. Make use of your local library. Most have story sessions suitable for his age and he will be allowed to borrow books as well. Making a weekly visit will become an enjoyable outing for both of you.

Encouraging Sam to enjoy books is worth the effort. Giving him a love of books now will help him later at school with English, spelling, story writing and research. Statistics show that some boys can be more reluctant to read than girls, so helping them early on does pay off. We live in a technical age, but books still have a huge influence on us.