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Reading to tamariki at all stages is important. At this age, toddlers are motivated to do what’s best for their brain through learning and repetition.

Developing a love of learning

If tamariki are engaged and enjoying themselves, they’re learning. Toddlers have probably moved on from chewing the book to get enjoyment, and now show preferences for favourite books and enjoy reading them over and over again. When tamariki have positive experiences with books, they’re developing good feelings about reading and are motivated to continue seeking out books and stories as they grow.

Benefits of reading

The aim is not for the child to learn to read now, but to lay the foundations for their future reading and to promote closeness and connection:

  • Reading together can create a bond that increases children’s cognitive and social–emotional development, and involves a lot of rich experiences – being held, feeling connected, hearing a familiar voice and sharing a story.
  • Shared attention, or ‘looking at the same thing together’, is an important activity. It helps the child learn about their world and understand that people have different viewpoints. This is an early stage in the development of empathy.
  • Time spent with books and stories leads to an enjoyment of language and increased language skills.
  • Repetition of the same book and story reinforces familiar words and language patterns.
  • The vocabulary in books is usually richer and more varied than normal conversation.
  • Choosing te reo Māori pukapuka helps with regular use of te reo.
  • A love of reading and a positive attitude towards books helps tamariki when it comes to learning at school, and it gives them access to a wider world that they can enjoy throughout life.

Tips for reading with tamariki

  • Read together often – the more that books are part of their everyday lives, the more they’ll see reading as a pleasure and a gift.
  • Book reading and stories can happen at any time throughout the day, not just at bedtime.
  • Books don’t have to be read word-for-word. Parents could talk about the pages or tell a story to go with the pictures. Even parents who have limited literacy skills themselves and lack confidence in reading can still promote a love of books and stories to their children.

Some favourite books for toddlers

  • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy – Lynley Dodd
  • Where’s Spot – Eric Hill
  • Any of the many nursery rhyme and fingerplay books