Five top tips for reading to one-year olds

What is the first word that you associate with a one-year old? My answer is unambiguously: ‘Busy”.

Here you have your toddler, newly independent on her own two feet and chatting away completely unperturbed by the small detail that she is completely unintelligible. So, given that your average toddler is simply chaos in motion, how do you carve out time and space to read to her? Here are our top five tips for reading to one-year olds.


Tip # 1: Don’t force it

It is no fun (for either of you) to have to rugby tackle your toddler and then pin her down to “make” her listen to you while you read her a story. Apart from the obvious – that this is not a path to instilling a life-time love of language and stories – it turns a time that can be pleasure into a ball-ache for both of you.

While I realize it seems counter-intuitive, rather let her (or him, it is probably a him based on my experience with my son) roam. You just might be amazed at how much they do actually hear…



  Personalized stories for 1 year olds 

Tip #2: Choose age-appropriate books

This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget that it is not a pleasure to read – or listen to – a story that just flies over your head. The body of Zoowun’s books for one-year olds are ten pages long because this is a length that is challenging enough to help develop language and vocabulary, but not so long that they lose the plot through loss of attention.


Tip #3: Keep books accessible

Although – even now – it is not too early to start instilling respect around how to handle books, whether in e-book or hard copy format, please don’t be too precious about them either. They are there to be loved and cherished and to open windows to new worlds. The collateral damage is that the pages may get dog-eared and torn or that your tablet screen will be smudged with muck. But please don’t use this as a reason to confiscate a favorite story book and keep it hidden from sight.


Tip #4: Let her choose the book (mostly)

Yes there are books that you will want to read your toddler. (By the way, the older she gets the more of these there will be as you come across stories that you loved as a child.) But try – most of the time anyway – to stand back and let her choose the story she wants to hear.


You do, of course, run the risk that you will read the same bed time story for 180 nights running, which brings us to….


Tip #5: Don’t sweat the repetition

My son had a favourite story when he was one. (It was Rod Campbell’s “Dear Zoo”.) We literally read it every day for three months – sometimes three times a day. Yes it is a delightful story but even the most compelling book becomes a bit jaded – for you, the adult. So I sucked it up and smiled and read it over and over…and was happy to introduce a second – different – storybook into story time when time allowed.


But above all, please remember to enjoy it yourself. There is something wonderful in the physical closeness of reading to your toddler, especially as part of a bedtime routine. And there is nothing quite like a whisper in the dark that tell you how much she loves the story – and you.