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3 Tips for Reading Aloud to an Impatient 11-Month-Old

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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One day last week, a mom who reads my blog emailed me looking for advice. She said that she had been trying to read aloud to her 11-month-old son, but that she was having a hard time getting him to stay put for the reading sessions. [Image credit: Adazing.com, Inspirational Reading Quotes]

I sent her the following three suggestions:

1. Don’t try to get him to stay put. Read aloud to him while he’s wandering around, playing with blocks, or whatever else captures his fancy. Kids often are listening even when they don’t seem like they are listening. If he’s not looking at the pictures, you can actually read aloud from almost anything. When my daughter was an infant I read the first Harry Potter book aloud to her. The idea is to get him used to cadence of your voice when you are reading, and for him to hear lots of different (rich) vocabulary words.

2. Read to him while he’s in his high chair eating. Take advantage of him being a captive audience. Here you can hold the book up and show pictures, so it's good to stick with books that have simple, bright illustrations. Leslie Patricelli's board books are excellent for this purpose, but anything he's shown an interest in will do. I still read aloud to my daughter almost every day while she eats breakfast. I believe that I first saw this idea in Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook.

3. When you are trying to sit with him and read together, try books with flaps and/or things to touch. You have to give them something extra to hold their attention at this age. My daughter adored books with flaps when she was a year old or so, and they remain among my go-to gift books for toddlers. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Rod Campbell
  • Where Is Baby's Belly Button? A Lift-the-Flap Book by Karen Katz
  • DK Peekaboo Playtime and others from the series. There are many age-appropriate topics to choose from (animals, farms, bathtime, etc.)
  • Touch and Feel Baby Animals and others from Scholastic Early Learners series
  • Begin Smart™ Look at Me! (releasing April 5th). Begin Smart had a lot of great books that we used when my daughter was this age, but sadly, most of them are out of print.

Young toddlers can be a tough audience for reading aloud, but it's absolutely still worth the effort. The trick is to accept that they may need to move around or play with the books. Whenever they are a captive audience, sitting in a high chair or in a car car seat, you can take advantage of that, too.

What do other readers say? Do you have particular tips for reading aloud with one-year-olds? Thanks for reading!

This post was originally published at Jen Robinson's Book Page

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Jen Robinson | @JensBookPage has been blogging about children's literature and growing bookworms since 2005. After her daughter started elementary school, she expanded her blog's focus to encompass the growing of joyful learners of all types: bookworms, mathematicians, scientists, artists, and more.

Jen believes that most schools today feature too much homework, too much testing, and not enough time for play and self-directed learning. She worries about the pressures on kids that are sapping their joy of learning. She thinks that we can do better. She feels that this matter is urgent. 

Jen has a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, and co-owns a small software firm serving the semiconductor industry. She grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in San Jose, California, with her husband and daughter.  

  • Guest
    Anne Hungerford-Lowell Thursday, 17 March 2016

    When I can, I give the toddler something relevant to the story's main character to hold. If the story is about an animal, then I try to find a toy of that animal. If a specific object moves the storyline, then I try to find that object in an appropriate size for the child.

    I also tend to start at whatever page the book is opened to. If a child brings me an open book then I can assume there is something on that page that has grabbed the child's interest. I don't feel compelled to read all the words, either. As the child matures, I increase the amount of text.

  • Jen Robinson | @JensBookPage
    Jen Robinson | @JensBookPage Thursday, 17 March 2016

    What a great idea, Anne. I don't think that I ever did that (about the object) with my daughter. But I can see it being quite helpful for many kids. I did skip words - I still do occasionally, but my daughter is just starting to read, so I can't get away with that much anymore.

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Guest Thursday, 21 March 2019