engaging toddlers to read - father reading with his toddler son and daughter

Engaging Toddlers to Read: 13 Tested and Proven Ways

Engaging toddlers to read, for most parents, is already a mountain to climb. Add the recent school closings, and you now have an Everest-like challenge in front of you. 

Teaching children good reading habits is crucial to their literacy and their development as a child. Not only will this prepare them for dealing with difficult schoolwork but also for later challenges in their young adult stages. So, how do you engage your toddlers to read? 

Our goal here in All Digital School is to help parents and teachers navigate distance learning with resources, guides, and wisdom from our community of teachers and parents. That’s why, in this post, we listed research-backed ways of engaging toddlers to read, our highly recommended books and apps, and many more.

Table of Contents

Benefits of engaging toddlers to read

engaging toddlers to read - little boy reading a book while lying down
Reading is fundamental for children as young as 4 months old.

Reading is one of the fundamental activities that boost a child’s literacy and growth. Specifically, reading helps to:

Develop their language.

Based on a study, 0–3 are the most crucial ages for a child’s literacy development. The study also concluded that parents’ intervention, a.k.a. engaging their toddlers to read, is one of the best foundations for that development. That’s why you must start early, so your kids will have better literacy skills in their later years.

Sharpen their listening skills.

In our previous blog post, we emphasized how active listening can help children better prepare for their exams. Engaging toddlers to read is one good way to teach them active listening. 

Conversely, fostering their listening skills will also help them develop better reading comprehension. Well, what’s the connection? Listening and reading are, in fact, both receptive skills. Therefore, developing one will instantly affect the other as well. 

Tickle their imagination. 

Einstein said it best: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Not only should you teach your child factual things but also how to think about things. This is important because a child has to learn how to think critically, especially in our age where false information is abundant. 

The best way to do that? Engaging toddlers to read. Share fictional stories with them to challenge their imagination. 

Strengthen your bond.

Reading together is a good way to strengthen your parent-child bond. Because through this activity, you can increase your emotional intimacy with them. Emotional intimacy is an important factor in improving Emotional Intelligence, which, in turn, strengthens family relationships like yours. 

Learn about empathy.

As children learn the struggles of the characters in stories, they also learn how to empathize with them. Learning about what characters go through can help them think and feel from another living being’s perspective. This teaches them about empathy. It’s a crucial concept for children to learn since we now live in a world where we have to rely on each other. 

RELATED: Remote Learning In A Pandemic: 7 Best Tips From Pediatricians

Risks of not engaging toddlers to read

engaging toddlers to read - a young boy reading a book
Not reading to your toddlers has several life-long consequences.

We talked about the benefits of engaging toddlers to read. How about the risks of not reading to them? Here are some of the common ones: 

Poor overall literacy skills. 

Reading, listening, writing, and speaking are the four important language skills children should develop at an early age. Reading and listening are receptive skills, while writing and speaking are productive skills. 

Because those four are interrelated, developing one will also improve the other three simultaneously. Similarly, when parents are not often engaging toddlers to read, it impedes their other language skills from flourishing. 

Limited vocabulary.

Some kids have trouble in kindergarten and elementary school because they didn’t have much stimulating reading activities since birth. One of the most lacking areas is their vocabulary.

When parents are engaging toddlers to read, they help provide meaning to different words by using them in different contexts. This enriches children’s vocabulary, giving them an advantage when they enter schooling. 

Lack of Emotional Intelligence skill sets. 

The five important factors of Emotional Intelligence (EI) is Self-Awareness, Managing Emotions, Self-Motivation, Empathy, and Handling Relationships. And what’s a single activity that can teach all of those? Reading. 

Without parents engaging toddlers to read, children won’t get any idea that learning is more than knowing facts. They also have to learn how to trust and empathize with others to truly grow and become successful.

Tested and proven ways of engaging toddlers to read

engaging toddlers to read - toddler surrounded by many books
You can be as creative as you want when engaging toddlers to read.

If you want to engage your child to read more, you have to try these 13 tips.

Start early.

It’s always ideal to start early with engaging toddlers to read. In fact, you can even read to them as early as before they turn 6 months old. By starting early, you are not just teaching them how to read; you are also providing them with a favorable home literacy environment. By doing this, you can easily engage them to read since you have established reading as a habit earlier and provided rich resources for them to use.

Invest in reading programs.

If you want to invest in your child’s early reading, why stop at books? You can step it up by enrolling your kid in an online reading program. This will help your experience be more comprehensive, streamlined, and interactive. 

For example, Reading Eggs, an online reading program, is compatible with iPad and Android devices. This makes it faster for you to incorporate reading into your daily routine.

Sit down and read to/with them.

More than helping them learn how to pronounce difficult words, parents reading to their kids will also help the latter learn how to make sense of the world. Since they are not that experienced yet to analyze things, you can help provide context to stories. 

They will know the function of simple daily objects and even the basic concept of right and wrong. As a result, do your best to have a daily 30-minute session of reading in the morning or before bedtime. 

Now, let them share a story.

If your toddler is older enough to tell a story, let them do so! After reading, try asking them to recap the story in their own words. This helps them become more articulate. They can learn how to put their thoughts into words. Best of all, they can learn how to speak and engage listeners. 

Set an example for your kids.

How can you engage them to read if you’re not doing it yourself? As a parent, you should practice what you preach. Do read books and other types of reading materials to set a good example. If they see that reading is an essential thing everybody in their home does, then it’s more likely that they will take a liking to it.

Ask questions and let them explain things.

Not only will you determine if they listened well, but you will also know how they think. Test your kids’ critical thinking skills by asking unusual questions about the stories or topics they have read. 

Besides, kids do have opinions, regardless of their inexperience. By giving them queries, you’re implying that they have a voice and you’re willing to hear it. Doing stuff like asking them questions makes reading highly interactive and engaging. 

Prepare a reading area or reading nook.

reading area for kids with bookshelf and chair
Make sure a reading area is a place that allows them to focus.

You need to eat food, so you have a kitchen. You need to sleep, so you have a bedroom. If you want to make reading an essential activity in your children’s life, set a reading area for your family. Having one in your house will make your kids focus easily and treat reading an inevitable activity. 

RELATED: How To Be More Supportive Of Your Kids With Online Learning

Let them get “obsessed” with things.

If you are intrigued by a story, you can easily finish a book, right? Having enthusiasm with things makes you eager to pursue them. Apply the same principle when engaging toddlers to read. Let them get obsessed with anything. 

Dinosaurs, Minecraft, or LEGOs—let them enjoy things and learn how to cultivate enthusiasm. Instilling this ability in them will serve them well in pursuing learning through books.   

Encourage them to read anywhere, anytime.

You should also let your kids realize that reading is not just an activity in school. It’s also a hobby they can enjoy anywhere and mix in with other hobbies. For example, if you can, take them to local libraries, explore literature museums, and visit landmarks. 

You can supplement their reading habits with factoids you can get from those places. If possible, you can also go to places described in their storybooks. 

RELATED: Virtual Field Trips 101: Ultimate Guide For Teachers

Share your stories as well.

Besides reading children’s books, you can also engage them better by telling your own stories. Through this, they will learn to visualize your experiences, improving their imagination.

More importantly, reminiscing and retelling family stories will help kids understand how people feel and think. This allows them to become more empathetic, which is a crucial soft skill to possess in today’s environment. 

Explore different genres.

Fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, folk tales, fantasy, biography, and even suspense—it’s also significant that you explore various genres with your kid. By doing this, you will expand their worldview. 

They will get to learn about other cultures and traditions—the diversity of the world. By having many genres of literature at their disposal, they might also discover their true passion along the way.  

Do writing exercises.

Is your toddler old enough to write complete sentences? Now that you’ve established reading as a habit, you can also teach them how to write stories. Reading a book together is the first step to learning how to write a story. 

For example, they might use another angle in the story and write a story about that. This will engage them to read more books if they are interested in writing stories.

Try doing other hobbies that stimulate curiosity.

engaging toddlers to read - father reading with his children under a fort
Do things together that stimulate their curiosity.

Engaging toddlers to read involves stimulating their curiosity. That’s why if you want them to get into the habit of reading, let them do activities that spark their spirit of inquiry. For example, you can do kids’ science experiments together. 

This will prompt them to question how your experiment results worked—how point A reached point B. As a result, they will satisfy their curiosity by asking questions or by reading more about the materials used in the experiment. 

When parents are engaging toddlers to read, they are also molding them to become inquisitive adults who value learning. Now that you know how to engage them to read, it’s time to learn the most engaging books for toddlers.

Best books for engaging toddlers to read

You can’t just read any book for toddlers. You have to choose books that teach them more than just ABCs. Moreover, there are certain books that engage children to listen more as you read because they are more well-written than others. The books we listed below are some good examples: 

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

The Little Engine that Could

This 1930 fairy tale classic is about a small blue train that goes out of its way to save stranded the toys. It teaches children about the value of hard work, optimism, and helping others. It has become so popular that it has spawned many versions, even a Disney one. 

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Green Eggs and Ham is a fun-to-read book by the legendary Dr. Seuss. The story is about Sam-I-Am, who convinces the narrator to eat green eggs and ham. After several unsuccessful tries, the narrator finally gives in, eats the meal, and discovers he likes them. The story teaches persistence, hard work, and openness to experiences

Mix It Up by Herve Tullet

Mix It Up not only teaches primary and secondary color combinations; it is also a highly engaging book. It allows children to tap, shake, and twist so that different, more colors will appear in the following pages. You can even use tinted glasses to see colors in another shade. Mix It Up is ideal for preschoolers.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is another classic children’s book—and it’s an award-winning and best-selling one. It’s about a caterpillar who eats various snacks and fruits until he gets a stomach ache. Only then he eats a leaf, feels better, spins a chrysalis, and turns into a butterfly. The story teaches children about discipline and integrity. 

The Story of Ferdinand 

Want to teach kids about peace, nonviolence, masculinity, and stereotypes? Read them this story. The Story of Ferdinand is about a bull who prefers to smell flowers rather than participate in bullfights. This story teaches that real strength is not always seen on the outside, and that kindness never fails.

Julián Is a Mermaid

Julian is a Mermaid

Julián is a young boy who gets mesmerized by women’s costumes and hairstyles in the pool. He dreams about wearing their outfits, but worries about what his grandmother will think when she sees him do it. This book teaches self-love and validates kids’ individuality. 

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin

This book is a heartwarming ode to children’s many potentials. It celebrates parents’ love for their children no matter what path they choose in the future. It also has a soft, nostalgic art direction, and clean, rhyming body text. 

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry

If you want your kid/s to enrich their vocabulary and knowledge about numbers, then this is the perfect book for them. It’s a picture book that teaches children about the names and functions of each object. The characters are also anthropomorphic animals, which add to the book’s adorableness factor.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

They All Saw a Cat bagged the Calcedott Honor, which is the highest award American children’s books can receive. It’s an ingenious story about different animals’ point of view of cats. It has a stellar way of teaching young readers that no one being can have the same perspective of everything. 

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

If your kid is at their vehicle-loving stage, then he or she will surely love this book. It’s about different earthmoving types of equipment preparing to have a good night’s rest for another day of hard work tomorrow. It teaches that while hard work and play are fun, resting is significant as well.

Those are some wonderful books, aren’t they? Don’t you wish you could just give your kids the best books in the world? Well, while that’s not really possible, you could always read those ten books we listed above. But if you want something more, we listed more apps below that can give you more literacy and language resources.

Highly recommended apps for engaging toddlers to read

engaging toddlers to read - two young girls each reading on their gadgets
Reading apps and online programs boost your child’s literacy development.

Truly, books are treasures you’d want your kids to cherish. However, you must not miss the sweet treats that many children’s reading apps are offering today. You can find apps that help you streamline your reading activities with your kids. You can also get apps that teach crucial language skills like spelling and grammar. Here are some of them:


Zoolingo is a well-loved grammar and spelling app for toddlers, available in the App Store and Google Play Store. It has 1000+ stunning puzzle games, educational activities, and nursery rhymes, all available in 16 languages. Best of all, it’s FREE! If you want to boost your kids’ language skills, use Zoolingo together with the best children’s books you can find.

Bob Books Reading Magic #1

Another great interactive reading and spelling app is Bob Books Reading Magic. It teaches toddlers how to sound out words, spell them, and connect letters with their sounds. As they complete each level, the challenges also increase. It’s an award-winning app that’s a great companion in your reading sessions. Bob Books Reading Magic #1 is available on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs is an interactive reading app with many games and activities. It’s compatible with children aged 2–13 years old. As for toddlers, the Reading Eggs app helps them learn the alphabet and phonemic awareness through videos, games, and read-aloud books. This app can also enrich your kid’s vocabulary, English fluency, and reading comprehension. 

Homer Stories

Homer Stories is one of the learning to read products offered by Homer. It’s an app for children aged 2 to 8 years old and teaches them reading through original interactive, animated stories such as Jack and the Beanstalk. It also allows you to save stories in a personalized library. Homer Stories is available on the App Store.  

Epic! Books for Kids

With over 40,000 eBooks, audiobooks, and videos in their digital library, your kids will never run out of fun and entertaining stories to read on Epic. That’s probably why it’s called the “Netflix” of children’s books. The collection includes content from Scholastic, Smithsonian, Macmillan, and many more. It has two versions—Home and Educator, with each costing $7.99 after the 1-month free trial. 

SNAP! Learning

If you’re creating lesson plans for your toddlers, you might want to try the Structured Guided Reading (SGR) program of SNAP! Learning. It’s a K-5 guided reading program with lesson plans and corresponding activities, interactive content, and flashcards. It also uses nonfiction and fiction stories. SGR is available in print and digital formats.


FarFaria offers free read-aloud children’s books and stories for 1–9-year-old children. The stories are short but expertly told by voice actors. They have fairy tales, nursery rhymes, bedtime stories, songs, educational books, and more. FarFaria is available in the App Store and Google Play Store.


Formerly named Reading Rainbow, Skybary is a digital library for children. Besides high-quality eBooks, it also has virtual field trips, stickers, and read-to-me and read-by-myself options. Skybary’s stories are narrated by LeVar Burton, the actor of the famous TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

First Grade Learning Games

This app has more than 18 games and puzzles about language, critical thinking, and STEM for first-grade learners. It has fun word games like Compound Words, Word Bingo, Contractions, and Verbs, Nouns, and Adjectives.  All of the activities are also based on core curriculum state standards. First Grade Learning Games is available on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Kidlo Bedtime Stories For Children

Kidlo is an award-winning digital library of eBooks for children aged 3 years old and up. Over 200 stories include fables, bedtime stories, classic fairy tales, and more. On the app, the kids can easily recognize words through the highlighted feature. They will also get challenged to read more stories because of the achievement board. Kidlo Bedtime Stories for Children is available on the Google Play Store and App Store.


Engaging toddlers to read should not only be your chore as a parent. Reading is one of the best skills and passions you can teach your child to love. Why? Learning is lifelong; it doesn’t end in school. That is why for your kid to love learning, they must learn to love the tool, first—reading. 

Related questions

Why are books important to a child’s development?

Books not only expand a child’s vocabulary but also enrich their emotional development. This prepares them for emotionally challenging situations in their later life. By teaching them moral lessons, they will have insight into dealing with similar experiences in the future. 

How to get your baby to read early?

Start early and make it a habit. You can even start as early as when they are 4 months old. You have to make reading a habit because the more you read words to them, the more words they learn as well. It doesn’t even matter if he or she can understand the meaning of words; your voice is enough to engage them!

Do you want more reading tips for your toddlers?

All Digital School is the number one place to search for your online school needs. Whether you want to look for a digital eBook library or a reading app, you can find it here on our resources directory. Want to get the latest scoops and hot takes from teachers and parents? Why not register for our site? 

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