Sharing Books

by our friends at Black Bear Academy

“A book is a gift you can open again and again” ~Garrison Keillor

As we end another successful Scholastic Book Fair at Black Bear Academy, and we approach the gift-giving season, we wanted to share some important tips about sharing books – The Hanen Way!  (References from Lauren Lowry, Hanen Certified SLP and Clinical Writer, The Hanen Centre, Published February 15, 2012)

Toddlers (aged 18 months – 2 ½ years) may be able to:

  • hold a book, turn the pages, look at the pictures and talk about what they see
  • attend and listen to a short story.
  • show preferences for favorite books, which they want to read again and again!
  • Preschoolers (aged 2 ½ to 5 years) may also be able to:
  • “read” the book to you, pointing out pictures of interest or reciting memorized words or lines
  • listen to you read their favorite story book from beginning to end.

Types of books to read with a toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Books with colorful, realistic pictures-real, colorful photos helps with attention and interest.
  • Board books-durable books and pages and are easier for toddlers to hold and turn.
  • Repetitive books-predictable, rhythmic, repetitive language piques interest and makes it easier for young children to remember key words.
  • Photo albums-toddlers love to look at pictures of themselves and of the important people and events in their lives.
  • Homemade books –young children enjoy looking at photos of favorite people or things, or objects or remnants from interesting places or outings. Include your child in this process! Ensure any written words make sense to your child-let them “write” or use text is from their perspective and at their level.
  • Interactive books-books with parts that move (flaps or tabs) or with things for your young child to touch and feel may interest your child. Studies show that children with language delays used more language when looking at interactive books. Read more about these studies.
  • Short, simple storybooks –age appropriate simple storylines may interest your child. If your child isn’t interested in listening to the whole story at first, simplify it, or just talk about the pictures.
  • Preschoolers may enjoy stories with a clear beginning, middle, and end. This makes it easier for your child to follow along and understand the story.
  • Preschoolers may start to enjoy non-fiction books about interesting topics such as animals, occupations or how things work. This exposes your preschooler to new vocabulary and provide new topics for conversation.
  • Avoid Lengthy, complicated storybooks (including fairytales), especially those without lots of illustrations 
  • Avoid electronic books -In a study comparing an e-book with the same story in a paper book version, researchers found that children learned more from the paper book. The buttons and games in the e-book distracted the children’s attention from the story. 

Read more about this study.

How to share books with a toddlers and preschools: 

  • Let your child choose the book. 
  • Sit with your child, face to face. 
  • Allow your child to hold the book and turn the pages. 
  • Let your child “read” the book in his own way. 
  • It’s okay to change things up! 
  • It’s ok to keep things the same! 
  • Take your time and wait! 
  • Try acting it out! 

Add Language!

How to add language: Add language while sharing books with toddlers and preschoolers that will stimulate their vocabulary, understanding, and thinking skills (It Takes Two to Talk® – A Practical Guide for Parents of Children with Language Delays. Pepper & Weitzman, 2004).  

  • use a variety of words – use words that describe, action words, words for feelings, location words, words about time, etc.
  • highlight important words – emphasize the most important words (the ones that are key to your child understanding the information on the page) with your voice, slowing down, and showing a picture in the book which demonstrates the meaning of the word. You can also use gestures to explain concepts in the book.
  • expand your child’s message – when your child says something about the book, you can respond by elaborating on his message.
  • build your child’s understanding – your child will gain a better understanding of his experiences and his world when you draw connections between the book and his life.
  • build your child’s imagination –introduce imaginary concepts to your child.  Talking about topics (like castles, ghosts, or pirates) that your child cannot experience in “real life” helps build your child’s language, play and thinking skills.
  • go beyond the “here-and-now” – go beyond the pages of the book to generate discussions with your preschooler to expand their thinking. Help your preschooler predict what might happen, compare and contrast, talk about feelings, and make connections with their experiences These ways of talking encourage your child to think, solve problems, and imagine.

For more information about how to approach sharing books with toddlers and preschools and ideas about the types of books to purchase, visit


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