Reading With One Year Olds

Something I have always been passionate about is writing and literacy. Therefore, I have always made it a priority to read with my children. I always start when they are babies. My babies were all very active, so I have even crawled around after them reading a book and shoving the book under their nose to look at the new illustration in between playing! I found once they were over 12 months old, it got even more fun reading to them because the children had a little more of an attention span and tend to interact even more with the books.

I have three one year olds at the moment and we have been enjoying reading, I thought I would share some of my top tips and book selection for reading within the 12-24 month age group. A lot of this advice can also be applied to babies younger than 12 months also.

1. Read With Animation and Expression.
You might revel in the drama or feel like a goose, but pretend you are an amateur actor as you are reading and use lots of animation and expression in your voice. If you aren’t used to reading like this, do it while no one else is around, and gauge how your child is so much more engaged with the story. You don’t necessarily have to do ‘voices’, sometimes I will to have a little fun, but sometimes I couldn’t be bothered, but I always read with expression. When I was at uni, a lecturer told us that Early Childhood educators should take particular note of how stories are read on Playschool. It’s true. If you read stories dramatically, pausing to create suspense or talking quickly to build momentum, the children will find it much more enjoyable. And importantly, when they start to read themselves, there’s a high likelihood that they will also use expression rather than the beginner reader drone.
2. Choose Books Appropriate For Their Age Group.
If you want your child to enjoy reading, choose the appropriate books. If you read books to your one year old that are to advanced for them, They will most likely lose interest very quickly. You will be fighting an uphill battle. Choose books that do not have lengthy text. Lots of bright illustrations or photos will keep your little one interested. Luckily there are a wealth of books available today that will maintain the interest of a 1 year old. Here are my top suggestions:
Board Books

There is a wide variety of board books, I’ll explain a few in detail below. Board books are excellent for the younger age group as they are so durable. It also makes it easy for children to learn important literacy practises like turning pages. I also teach my children, right from when they are babies, to respect books. That includes not eating them! There are a few bite marks here and there, but for the most part, my children were able to learn that “Books are for eyes, not for mouths.”
One board book that has been a recent favourite in our house is Possum Magic, Animals based on Julie Vivas’s illustrated animals in Mem Fox’s Possum Magic. Having very tactile children, I didn’t think this book would be such a hit, but it absolutely was, by every one year old in the house! They have read it over and over, and as you can see in the picture below, have examined the bright whimsical pictures in great detail.
This is a Scholastic book. It’s released this month at the RRP of $9.95. The triplet’s and I give it a big thumbs up!

Touch and Feel Books
If your children are very active like mine, the touch and feel books will have immediate appeal. It gives the child the opportunity to have tactile stimulation while they listen. We have a wide selection of board books. The “That’s Not My…” series is excellent. The story moves quickly aqnd it is repetitive, a key formula for success in early childhood literacy, and there’s plenty to touch and explore. The baby touch series is also wonderful. We have a few book featuring nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are great for developing literacy in children. They hold the child’s interest and the repetition and rhyming words are super for developing an awareness of words and flow. As I pointed out in my post about Mem Fox’s book, Good Night, Sleep Tight, children who learn at least six nursery rhymes by the age of four will normally be in the top reading group by the age of 8. We also have some board books with simplified versions of fairy tales. (See three little pigs below) This is a great introductory way to introduce children to these well loved classics. The Book Depository has a great selection of touch and feel fairy tales. See here.

Toby enjoying touch and feel books. Toby is the most active of the triplets, so touch and feel books are his favourite as he needs to do something with his hands and only has a short attention span.
Lift the Flap
Another good book selection is lift the flap books. The “Spot” (The Dog) books are great examples. I would recommend these books once your child is over 18 months, because even when made of sturdy paper, they do have a tendency to tear. Even the board book lift the flap books have cardboard flaps, so I normally reserve these books as books to be read with an adult. That way you can teach them how lift them gently and carefully and how to put them back down before turning the page. 
Jayden reading the Spot books. Toby reading a lift the flap board book from the “Peekaboo” series. (I bought them at a Learning Ladder party.) These book has been a favourite or all five kids.
Word Books
I’m not entirely sure what to call these books, but they are plentiful. These are the books that have a whole heap of photos with words next to them. When I first had kids I thought they were a bit pointless and boring. The reality is the kids love them and it is EXCELLENT for language development. You can get them on all manner of topics – fruit, body, babies, farms, animals, etc. My kids have a very battered and bruised one on farms (it’s also a flap book) that has been much loved. In the picture below Jayden is holding the current favourite. We have three in this series. (I got them cheap at QBD) Unfortunately they all tend to like the book with the picture of a tractor on it. So there are fisty cuffs in the pursuit of this book. There’s another book with some pictures of motorbikes which also catches Jayden’s interest. He is mad about motorbikes right now. Books with pages with fruit on it are always popular and pictures of babies. 

Don’t they look like two little old men? You can tell that Jayden has a better attention span then Toby! I can see them in their armchairs reading the papers together when they are 50!

Big Kid Books
Don’t feel you should only read board books to your toddler. There are plenty of books that are short enough to maintain a small child’s interest. And if you are holding the book while you are read, it normally remains safe.

A good example of a perfect big kids book that the triplets enjoyed reading is Ruth Paul’s My Dinosaur Dad. The text is full of descriptive words about Dads and has a cuddly finish. (Sorry for the spoiler)

Imogen reading  the end of “My Dinosaur Dad”.

 The illustrations are so bright and vivid. The kids love examining it. The pages are actually quite thick card, so now that the triplets are getting close to being two (Yikes!) I’m happy for them to start learning to turn paper pages with a book like this. It’s a good springboard for discussing what makes the child’s Dad special. The perfect book prior to Father’s Day. Trent and Jonty also loved this one, so they came up with their own words for Daddy – scratchy, fast, normal sized and cuddly.

The book was released by Scholastic NZ. It’s RRP is $15.99 and the publication date is Aug. 2013.

Wow – what HUGE dinosaurs!

3. Join in Read Aloud’s With Others
Now I’m going to contradict what I have said above! Yes, it’s so important to choose age appropriate books. However, don’t let that stop you! If you are reading a longer story with more complex themes to your older children and your 1 year old wanders over. Join the toddler in! You don’t want your younger child to think they are excluded from some reading experiences. If they lose interest, don’t press the issue too much since it’s advanced literature for a toddler. Sometimes, it’s got nothing to do with the literacy. Sometimes children just love the emotional security of hearing a grown-up read. Also, your 1 year old is probably going to be read longer stories in playgroup or other settings, so it’s good practice for them.

Miss Rachael with Trent, Toby and Immy reading a childhood classic, “The Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. 

I hope this gives you some inspiration for reading with your babies and toddlers – especially your one year olds! Reading is such an important skill, and reading aloud can help your child learn to read years before they learn any letters!

What books do you recommend for toddlers? (Book types or titles)

** I have not been paid for this post. I was sent “My Dinosaur Dad” and “Possum Magic Animals” from Scholastic, but was under no obligation to write about them, but did so because they are awesome. All opinions are my own.

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  1. Some great ideas there thanks. My bub is 10 months old and she’s at that stage where she wants to either maul her books, or I can’t keep her still enough to read to her. I’ll keep trying though. It’s all part of the fun 🙂

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