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Jump-start your toddler's vocabulary through reading

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Mother reading to two young boys

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. What are the benefits?
2. How to make it fun?
3. What are some tips?

You already know that reading is important for learning, but it’s also a great way to show your toddler love and attention. If you spend a few minutes every day with your children and a book, they will remember it their entire lives.

Even when your child is still crawling, you can look at picture books together and talk about what you see.

Singing songs and reciting nursery rhymes are other ways to learn words by hearing them, says Catherine Tedesco, Palm Beach County School District’s former literacy manager for Elementary Education. Later, when we see words on the page, we remember them from the songs and rhymes: “Three blind mice!”


 “When my mother read 'The Gingerbread Man' to me, she couldn’t skip anything because I knew all the pages,” says Debbie Battles, former director of Elementary Education at the school district. “I still know every word: ‘You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!’ It’s a memory of my mother that I will always have.”

Just like Battles’s infatuation with the gingerbread man, children often want to read the same book over and over. You may get sick of it, but children memorize words by their sounds even before they start reading by themselves, Battles says.


Words are everywhere — on the bus, in your car, in a store. Teach your child to notice words wherever you find them. You can make anything you do with your child an opportunity to learn new words, Battles says.

Build reading through your child’s tendencies and interests. “At the zoo, my favorite part was seeing the monkeys,” Battles says. “Let your child dictate a simple sentence. It’s their words.”

Also, let your child see you reading. Don’t forget local libraries offer free activities for all ages, such as play groups. Not sure where to start? Visit the Palm Beach County Library System website.


• Set aside a quiet, cozy place to spend a few minutes reading with your toddler every day.
• Start with picture books and talk about each picture before you read.
• Your child wants to be like you, so let your child see you reading.
• Read with expression and take time to ask your child questions about what you are reading.


• Debbie Battles, former director of Elementary Education, School District of Palm Beach County
• Catherine Tedesco, former literacy manager of Elementary Education, School District of Palm Beach County

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