How to Teach Toddlers How to Read

Toddler learning how to read

Studies have shown that it is not only possible to teach toddlers how to read, it is possible that toddlers can absorb language easier and quicker than their older counterparts thanks to the fact that their brains are undergoing rapid development during this period in their lives.


This active, rapid development may make it easier for toddlers to absorb knowledge regarding letters, letter sounds and other necessary syntax which helps their brain form the proper neural pathways for reading.


Helping your child learn how to read at an early age will help them immeasurably during their formative years and beyond.

Toddlers who know how to read will be ahead of their peers by the time they start school, and they will have a stronger grasp on language and language skills that are essential for their developing mind.

If you want to know how to teach toddlers how to read, consider the following guide to help you.


A Note on Emergent Literacy Skills

It’s important to know that in order to learn how to teach toddlers how to read, you need to understand that emergent literacy skills are the precursor to fully reading on an independent level. These emergent literacy skills include the following skills.


  • The ability to retain an extensive vocabulary of words, and knowing how to use that vocabulary


  • The ability to understand words in terms of phonemic sounds; this is called phonemic awareness


  • The ability to understand that marks and symbols represent letters and words


  • The ability to recognize the different letters of the alphabet



Thankfully, these essential emergent literacy skills can be taught relatively easily and without any expensive equipment or classes. Let’s take a closer look at how you can help teach your child to read once they have mastered all of these important literacy skills.


When Should I Read To My Toddler?

Father teaching toddler how to read

One of the most important activities you can do when teaching your kid how to read is to actually read with them.

Reading with your child will improve their vocabulary, help them learn letters and words, and give them a stronger positive connection to reading that will make them more likely to learn how to read.

It’s important that you pick regular times to read with your toddler; in effect, you want to create a schedule that you can keep on a consistent basis.


You should read to your toddler for at least one reading session a day, but more than one session is absolutely beneficial as well. It’s up to you when exactly you read to your toddler; the goal is to find a time when your child will be relaxed and interested in the book, so this may mean different times for different children.


Reading to your child is best done with them close to you, such as sitting on your lap or sitting next to you on the couch. This will encourage your toddler to look at the words on the book, improve their attention span, and invite them to participate in the reading session.

The more your toddler reads the better! And if they want to read the same book over and over, that’s more than acceptable–and it’s in fact, perfectly normal, as toddlers love repetition.

You can read any book that your child wants. Some prefer shorter books with lots of pictures and rhymes, while others don’t mind sitting through longer books or—depending on the toddler—even being read chapter books in increments. The key is to find books your toddler is interested in reading and go from there.


When You Read to Your Toddler

Reading to your kid is the key to helping them learn how to read. This is because your toddler can learn about the different letters of the alphabet, along with the words that they form, as you read to them.


One of the best things to do when reading to your toddler is to point to each word as you read it. This will take some practice, as you will need to learn how to organically point to each word as you read it without going too slow or too fast while you read the book.


Over time, your child will begin recognizing the words that you point to, as they connect the sound of the word with the visual letters on the page. You can review this video for some more tips on this:

It is likely that your toddler won’t sit perfectly still while you read, and that’s okay! You can keep their attention on the book by always reading expressively, and making sure that you invite participation when reading to bring their attention back to the book.


For example, ask your kid open-ended questions about the books that you read. For instance, you can ask them questions like: “Why do you think (character) did that? What do you think will happen next?” This will help them develop an interest in the story as well as a more cohesive understanding of narrative structure.


Another way that you can help keep your child’s attention during reading is by introducing puppets and toys into the story. Act out the story with the puppets and toys and encourage your toddler to join in as well. You can even replace character names in the book with your toddler’s name, as this will help them feel a personal connection.

Check Out This Program Which Can Help Your Toddler Learn How To Read

Choosing Books for Your Toddler

Toddler searching for a book to read

When you’re choosing books to buy for your toddler, it’s important to have a wide variety available, especially once they start getting a bit older.

To start with, look for beginner board books that have short words and an emphasis on learning letters. Once your child is bored or familiar with these, you can expand towards books with stories and more interesting text.

Remember, learning how to teach your toddler how to read takes patience and hard work—but the benefits of a toddler who is exposed to reading at an early age are more than worth the extra time that it takes to teach them!

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