10 Wonderful Secrets on Choosing Books for Toddlers

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The Best Kind of Books for Your Child

I love that books can be so many things: they can be silly and playful or life-changing and motivational. I know that sounds like a tall order for a children’s book, but we have to start young by exposing our littles to the wide and wonderful array of books as soon as we can. But do you feel like you need help choosing books for toddlers in your life? Look no further!

If you’ve ever been on my blog before, you likely know that I am a bit of a nut when it comes to books (or a worm-get it…book worm). Although I’m maybe a little extra when it comes to books, I think they are cause for a lot of excitement! As a speech therapist, I especially love all the language kids hear from books. (If you want more tips on helping your little one talk, check out my post here.)

Reading to your child has tons of proven benefits: vocabulary building, pre-literacy skills (the skills your child needs so they can be the reader someday), learning important lessons, and “experiencing” new things you don’t normally have access to (like outer space). You guys, books really are the coolest! Without further ado, here are my 10 best secrets for choosing books for toddlers.

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1. Get a book on a topic your child is interested in!

I love doing this because kids get excited about books that have to do with something they already love! I sometimes buy books about certain topics if I know my kids will love them forever. Other times, I check out a whole heap of books that all have to do with zebras because it might be a phase that only lasts a week. Some of my favorite books are by Sandra Boynton. She has tons of titles about different things, (get some of my favorites here about dinosaurs and right here for farm animals).

2. Let them help pick it out!

If you go to the library or the store to pick up a new book, let your child help pick it out! Now, make sure you don’t let them go completely on their own because we don’t want them to end up with a chapter book that merely has cool pictures on the front. But giving them the chance to look around and find something that looks exciting to them will get a lot of buy-in and they will be more interested in reading it when you get home.

choosing books for toddlers

3. Get books that are fiction and nonfiction about the same topic.

If your child does get really into a specific topic, let’s say it’s pigs, then get them a mix of silly pig books and fact-based pig books. As much fun as it is to read all of the “Elephant and Piggy” series, you can help them learn about real pigs along the way. I like the National Geographic book called “Farm Animals”. When you read the nonfiction books, feel free to skip over some parts, so your child can stay interested while they learn real facts.

choosing books for toddlers

4. Find books with great pictures.

Books with great pictures can mean a lot of things, so let me tell you what I mean. (I don’t mean that they have to be a Rembrandt, okay?) Quality pictures mean that the words match the pictures-this is ideal because as you read, you can point to some of the objects you are talking about.

Pointing to what you are reading is an easy way to build vocabulary and make the book engaging for your child. It’s a big-time win/win! Some great examples of this include the Babies Love Series. This collection has simple pictures with illustrations that are directly connected with the story.

choosing books for toddlers

5. Books with repetition are great!

Books that have some kind of pattern or repetition will help your child participate in the book reading. When your little sweetie picks up on the repetition, they might be tempted to join in and “read” with you. It’s yet another great way for them to interact with you and the book.  

One of my favorites for this is “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. By the end of the book (or more accurately, the 20th time you’ve read it) your child will be chanting the words with you. This is honestly one of my very favorite things to do with my little one! When she knows the words that come next in our book, my heart just SINGS, because you know if they are trying to read the book with you, their little minds are buzzing and whirring with activity!

choosing books for toddlers

6. Read stories that teach meaningful lessons.

I’m sure there have always been authors who write books to teach meaningful lessons, but it seems that these types of books are getting more popular, and I like that!

It’s always important to reinforce certain meaningful lessons through your own words with your kids, obviously. But I have to say, it’s nice to have back-up, especially in the form of a good read! There are books on kindness (one of my faves is “Be Kind”), generosity (“It’s Mine”), sharing (try “Llama Llama Time to Share”), and so many more options. There are books on just about every subject you can think of, and I love it because sometimes it’s hard to know how to word things to your kids, so why not let a book do the work??

7. Try books that have interactive features.

If you have a little one who is a bit resistant to reading with you, try some interactive books! These days there are books that talk, books that sing, books that feel weird, books that have puppets. There are SO MANY options!

Some of my favorites are the animal puppet books. I especially love Baby Giraffe. The words are cute and simple with fun play built right in. I also dig “Never Touch a Porcupine” (and there are several other “Never Touch” books that are just as fun). It’s so silly, with great rhymes and tons of fun bumps and ridges your child will love to explore! Interactive books make reading time way more than just sitting and listening. (And I’m a big fan of making books more engaging whenever possible.) It’s a great cure for the hesitant reader!

8. Check out books that will help your child prepare for a new activity or event.

 Another cool option is to pick out books for your child that detail a certain experience that may be new to them. Going to the dentist for the first time? You can get “We’re Going to the Dentist” and it will help your child prepare for what to expect. You could read it a few times before you go, and you could even take it with you to the dentist. Then, as your child is there, you can relate what your child is doing to the story. And maybe, just maybe this will make the whole experience a bit more tolerable.  

9. Choose books that you can sing along to.

You guyssssss. I absolutely LOVE to sing! So you bet your bottom dollar that I love to get books that I can sing with! It’s yet another way to get your little one to love to read. The best part about kids is that they DO NOT care if you sound like Mariah Carey or a yelping dog. They just want to have fun. Singing is also cool because it helps kids use a different part of their brain.

Singing can help you calm down, cheer up, tear up, and remember things. (Think “ABCs”, does anybody else have to sing the song sometimes when you are trying to alphabetize??) Another perk-if you can’t stand your own voice, you can always find someone else singing to the song on the interwebs. Just give it a quick google, and you can let someone else do the singing! Try “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” for something classic or “Baby Beluga” if you are feeling creative, they are both way fun! 

10. Diverse books!

I have to say this was something that really wasn’t on my radar before the last few years (unfortunately). But thanks to a push from educators and authors all over the place, we now have way more books that feature characters of all different shapes and colors. This emphasis on diverse books is such a beautiful thing to celebrate! It’s something that all children should be exposed to, whether they are part of the majority culture or part of the minority culture. If you need a good book list, check out my fellow SLP over at “Having Our Say”. She’s got tons of great ideas for you to get started (or to keep improving!).

Hopefully, this list expanded your ideas on what types of books are out there and will be helpful when choosing books for the toddlers in your life. I think it can be easy to get in a bit of a “book rut”, just sticking to what you know. But I highly encourage you to explore some new titles so you can help your little one love books! Happy reading!

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