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Sharing books with toddlers builds their love of reading and reinforces their bonds with whānau.

Tamaiti enjoy having one-on-one time with an adult when they share a book together. It’s a great way to strengthen many areas of their development.

Enjoying books every day with a toddler is a powerful way of reinforcing your relationship, enhancing their language and bringing the wider world home.

Look at page 4 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1 together with the parents. Pēpi says:

‘I love it when we read. I can even point to pictures when you ask me. Kei hea te poro? I can show you.’

Ask parents:

  • What books have you and your little one been enjoying together? Is there a favourite?
  • What do you think they like about that particular book?
  • How do you feel about reading it again and again?

It can feel very repetitive for parents but there is value for their toddler in revisiting the same book over and over.


  • Why do you think toddlers like repeating the same book?

Benefits of sharing books with toddlers

Toddlers like predictability and participation.

The same story provides predictability. They are learning about the consistency of print. The same story happens no matter who reads it.

They can participate in the story due to the familiarity gained from repeat reads. ‘If I can anticipate, I can participate.’ Try pausing at the end of lines that are repeated and see if they can provide the last word.


  • What do you think would happen if you got a bit creative and changed it as you read it?
  • Do you ever do that? What happens?

The most important thing about sharing books with children at this stage is the enjoyment it can create. It is an opportunity to have time together, strengthening relationships between them and their parents and whānau.

There are other benefits for toddlers too. For example:

  • They can provide a way to talk about changes, and scary or upsetting things, from a ‘safe distance’. It is some other child learning to deal with the issue while you and your child snuggle up together and think about the problem from a position of safety and security. Anything from moving to a big bed, a new home, having a new sibling, going to ECE, or losing a beloved person or a pet can be helped by sharing a picture book.
  • Although the focus is not on ‘learning to read’, book sharing does help develop pre-reading skills. Toddlers increase their vocabulary, and learn about books (they have a front and back, a right way up, they have pictures and words, and the words are read from left to right). They also learn that words are made up of different sounds.
  • You don’t need flash cards or special resources for these pre-reading skills to emerge. Just sharing books as often as possible is the key.

Supporting sharing books with toddlers

Ask parents:

  • Have you thought about joining the library? They have a good selection of books for toddlers and they often run story time activities too. Librarians know the stock they hold and can suggest suitable books.
  • Have you ever made a book for your child?
  • Would you like to see some homemade examples?

Homemade books can be personalised very easily or ‘themed’ around things the toddler likes or is interested in.

Junk mail can provide plenty of free coloured pictures.

Small ‘brag book’ photo albums with family photos are popular. They can include familiar people or whānau they don’t get to see as often.

Snap-lock bag books can be sewn or taped securely (at the closed end). Pages with pictures glued on them can then be inserted and also changed easily if new interests emerge. Adding some words under pictures lets you ‘stretch’ what your toddler can say. For example, they might say ‘dog’ and the sentence could read ‘the dog is wagging his tail’.

How does this relate to Tākai resources?

Baby Wall Frieze – Tukuna ahau kia mahi, kia mōhio ai ahau me pēhea te ako - let me do things over and over again.

Read my favourite story again and again. I love the familiar and predictable because it makes me feel secure.

Six things children need – Te kōrero me te whakarongo - talking and listening.

Sharing stories, songs and games sometimes over and over again.

Helpful resources for whānau