Before I had kids I looked forward to reading to them. When our four were growing up sharing books with them ranked at the top of parentings joys. Now as a grandparent I’m loving it at a whole new level.
How do you get a two-year-old interested in books? Pick the best books. Find the best time to read. Follow their curiosity. Reward reading sessions.
You loved reading as kid and you want to pass on that love or you’ve heard how important reading to kids is for intellectual development. Either way, you may feel frustrated or disappointed that your child isn’t showing much interest in books. Don’t worry. You can grow that interest.
Parenting (and grand parenting and caregiving) is an art, not a science.
There’s a lot of experimenting and a lot of hit and miss.
And just when you get it figured out, everything changes and you start again from ground zero.
With four kids and three grandkids one thing I’ve learned is that not everything works for every kid. How wonderful that we’re all different, even from day one. But it sure makes parenting challenging.
If you have a two-year-old who’s not showing much interest in books, what can you do?
Don’t worry about it.
Celebrate their uniqueness. Accept a non-book loving child and don’t worry about their intellectual development.
If there’s a history of problems with eyesight in the family, you could consider taking your child to the eye doctor. There are ways to test the eyesight of very young children. My grand daughter was prescribed glasses before she turned two.
It might be time to lower your expectations. Maybe they’ll show more interest as they get older, maybe they will continue to follow other pursuits.
You can take a low key approach by surrounding them with books, looking for opportune moments and dropping it when they lose interest.
Don’t express frustration or disappointment. They can’t help the way they’re wired.
Look for other ways to increase vocabulary
You’ve heard so much how reading to your child will prepare them academically and will increase their vocabulary. But there’s other ways to achieve that goal.
Music is a great way: sing with them, finger play or listen to music. All good ways for them to absorb more vocabulary.
Of course, talking to them is a great way to increase vocabulary. Ask them questions. Carry on both sides of the dialogue if they aren’t verbalizing much yet.
Play some audio books or children’s programming. Of course, I’m not advocating hours a day in front of the screen, but educational TV is specifically aimed at teaching kids vocabulary as well as math concepts and general knowledge.
Pick the Best Books
I think picking the best books is really the key. You don’t even have to have lot, since it’s likely they’ll want to read the same ones over and over.
Interactive books, funny books and touch and feel books all work well.
You have to love them, too. When reading to children, a book has to please both audiences, the adult and the child. If you’re tired of a book, move it out of sight. You are taller than they are and they sleep more. You have the advantage here.
Realize that little girls may have different interests than little boys.
It could be that your little boy is interested in cars and trucks and that’s what he wants to see in his books, too.
Maybe your little girl is more verbal and is ready for books with real pages, longer stories and and relatable characters. It could be that the books you loved as a small child aren’t the same ones that capture their attention. Take your cues from them.
Borrow AND Buy
Books from the library are great for trying out new titles and getting some variety. But also buy books that can be handled and loved. There’s something special about books that you own.
Keep books handy, in line of sight. Display books face out.
I believe in surrounding kids with books. It’s so easy for all of us to get addicted to screens, down to the smallest among us. But there’s a whole world to explore and people to love and stories to ignite the imagination.
Keeping a basket of books in the living room or play room or bedroom means easy access when a window of opportunity opens up to read. Displaying books face out on a shelf or ledge invites kids to take initiative to check them out.
Put board books or sturdy books in with the toys.
Some books were made to take the roughest treatment kids can dish out. A lot board books work well. There’s also indestructibles. These books are made of special material that won’t rip or tear.
Find the Best Time to Read
Make sure they are hydrated, full and rested.
No matter your age, you get cranky when you’re tired, thirsty or hungry. A reading session won’t go well if there’s a pressing physically need, including a full diaper or a toddler who’s too hot or cold. Make sure all the environmental factors are taken care of so your child can fully engage without distraction.
If before nap time and bedtime isn’t working, try another time
Reading before nap time or bedtime works for lots of kids, but not all of them. Right after breakfast might be a good time or right after supper. Or just a few minutes here and there randomly throughout the day.
Reading sessions with two-year-olds are likely to be short. Maybe 5 minutes. Maybe two. As their love for reading grows, the sessions naturally get longer.
Delight and Affection
Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival podcast says that children should associate reading with delight and affection. Some kids are cuddlers and some aren’t. Lap sitting and reading are great for cuddlers. Add in a fuzzy blanket, stuffed animals or dolls and you’re set up for a great reading session.
If your child isn’t a cuddler, they might prefer running cars across the floor or stacking blocks while you’re reading. In those cases, look for books that rhyme or are otherwise orally appealing, since they aren’t fixated on the pictures.
Here’s some of my favorites.
For more book ideas, check out my post One Book a Month for Toddlers from Grandma.
Follow Their Curiosity and Let Them Set the Pace
Let them pick the books they want to read. Yes, this might be the same book over and over again until you’re sick of it. Don’t forget. You’re taller. You can rotate those books you’re tired of and get them out of sight. Two-year-olds can remember toys, books and people who are not right in front of them. But, they are also easily distracted.
Go faster and skip passages or pages. You could try reading one sentence or even one word on a page. Or, you could just talk about pictures. It’s hard for us finishers to walk away from a book halfway through. It’s okay. Let it go.
It’s hard for perfectionists not to read every word. Trust me. This is a good way to read to toddlers. You’re not too old to learn new tricks. Put this one in your toolbelt. Talk about the pictures if they’re interested in them and don’t worry about the text.
Reward Reading Sessions with Stickers or Treats
Reading is it’s own intrinsic reward. But, if you have a child with little interest in books you might want to up your game. Let him know that at the end she gets a treat or stickers or even screen time.
Every behavior in small children that we want to reinforce can be rewarded. That includes paying attention to books. Your delight can also be contagious. Don’t forget you’re out to please two audiences. Find that common ground where you’re both happy.
Start reading to yourself out aloud without paying attention to him.
This is another tip from Sarah Mackenzie. She uses it with her kids when they’re out of sorts. She doesn’t invite them to listen or make an announcement. She just starts reading. Inevitably they ditch their tantrum and get sucked into the story.
This is when you’ll be glad you’ve picked the best books and have them stashed in convenient places around the house.