Choosing a Book for Toddlers


Reading to toddlers is more about building their spoken vocabulary than teaching them to recognize the words on a page. This is still an important step in learning to read because, as Jeannine Herron at Reading Rockets writes, speaking is what reading skills are built on. Young kids will connect sounds and letters to the words they already know when starting to read, making a good working vocabulary essential for little readers. Books are a great way of exposing toddlers to tons of new words, which they can then practice using in sentences while talking with you about them.

It's the conversations you have with your toddler about the books you read together that will help build up their spoken language, the first building block to learning to read later on. With so many books to choose from and talk about, which are the best ones for a growing and changing toddler? Here are suggestions for what types of books to introduce at different ages and how to start conversations with your toddler about them.

Toddler Books by Age

12 to 17 Months

According to Nemours Children's Reading BrightStart, 12-to-17-month-olds will begin to carry books and choose books they want you to read to them. At this age, they can motion, gesture, label things, begin to say words, and point to objects. They may excitedly point to pictures they recognize in a book, like a cow, and say "Moo!" for the sound a cow makes.

For this age group, less is more when it comes to choosing books. Zero to Three recommends simple stories, stories with rhymes and phrases that repeat, and stories with pictures of other babies and familiar objects. They also share that finishing the book is less important than having fun together; you don't have to read every page or every word on a page if your toddler wants to skip around. Even wordless books work well for toddlers according to Reading Rockets. With these books you and your toddler can identify the images or make up a story as you go along.

Asking simple questions like "Where is the dog?" is a great way to start conversations surrounding books with this age group. You can also comment about familiar activities and objects you see in the illustrations, like saying "We saw a dog today!" or "That tree has green leaves." Using new words in describing images will help to build your little one's vocabulary.

Nemours KidsHealth also recommends books with lift-the-flap pages and textures to keep a toddler's hands busy. Pop-up books are also exciting and may hold a toddler's attention for a bit longer than usual.

To sum it up, for 12-to-17-month-olds, look for books with simple stories, rhymes, repeating phrases, and colorful pictures of familiar things. Wordless books and lift-the-flap or pop-up books work too.

18 to 23 Months

Image by Kristen Prahl via Dreamstime.

father and toddler read together
father and toddler read together

Image by Fizkes via Dreamstime.

18-to-23-month-olds can name familiar objects and pictures, use short phrases when talking, follow simple directions, and imitate words and actions according to Nemours. They will bring books to you to read, will fill in words to stories they know well, and may pretend to read to stuffed animals or dolls.

Zero to Three states that you can introduce longer stories, humor, and silly rhymes with this group. Penguin Random House notes that toddlers begin to recognize different colors at 18 months or so, and this may be a good time to start to introduce other early concepts too, like numbers. If you're looking to teach your toddler about the ABCs, counting, colors and shapes, Scholastic recommends resisting the urge to quiz your child and choosing books that introduce basic themes and invite conversation instead.

Zero to Three has a number of good reading strategies for this group of toddlers. Since they have boundless energy at this stage and move around a lot, don't worry if your toddler won't sit for a whole story. You can ask them to hop like the frog in a story to hold their interest and keep them moving. You can also give your toddler simple tasks, like turning the pages of a book. Keep asking questions like "Who is hiding behind the tree?" and take time to discuss what's happening in the pictures. You can even pause before you say a favorite line or phrase in a story to see if your toddler will fill in the final word.

In sum, longer stories, humor, and silly rhymes work well with 18-to-23-month-olds. You can start to introduce concepts like colors and numbers at this stage too, and books are a great tool you can use for early learning.

24 to 35 Months

mom and toddler read a book together
mom and toddler read a book together

Image by Rayp808 via Dreamstime.

Nemours states that by 24 to 35 months, toddlers enjoy imitating movements they see, like jumping or cheering, and will turn paper pages in books. They talk using phrases and short sentences; can understand many words, phrases, and questions; and can recite phrases or stories from their favorite books. They will likely enjoy the same book over and over again.

24-to-35-month olds may be ready for books with regular pages and those with engaging plots according to Zero to Three. Nemours notes that stories with rhymes and word patterns that repeat will still be appealing to this age group. Humor and great illustrations are also still a draw. Zero to Three also recommends nonfiction books, like animal books or books on the seasons, that will help toddlers to figure out how the world works.

There are a bunch of fun reading strategies to try with this age group. Nemours states that if you leave off the last word or phrase of a familiar story or rhyme, your little one might fill it in. You can also try reading the story wrong: saying the wrong word or skipping words or pages to see if your toddler will correct you. This can become a little game between the two of you. Zero to Three recommends asking more open-ended questions while reading like "How do you think the boy is feeling?" or "What do you think will happen next?" You can also relate stories to your toddler's everyday life by asking about their experiences with some of the situations or settings. By age three your little one might be able to tell you a story based on the pictures in a book. Reading Rockets recommends seeking out books about things your toddler especially likes, whether it's animals or trucks or the moon, to build enthusiasm for reading.

To sum up, 24-to-35-month-olds may be ready for books with regular pages and good story lines. They will still enjoy repeating word patterns and rhymes, and great illustrations, of course! You will be able to ask your toddler more questions while reading at this stage or even ask them to narrate based on the pictures.

Na Children's Books

kittens sitting in buckets
kittens sitting in buckets
toddlers sitting together
toddlers sitting together

Our toddler books strive to create a fun, interactive reading experience that builds language skills. About familiar topics and illustrated with beautiful action photography, our books engage little ones in the movement they see while building their vocabulary with simple text. Instead of sitting still and listening, toddlers can be a part of the action happening on the pages. What Kitties Do invites toddlers to imitate cats and kittens jumping, cuddling, stretching, and more while learning how to use verbs in simple repeating sentences. What Kiddies Do is a rhyming book about all of the joyful things children of all ages do, like singing, playing airplane, or just spinning around. Little ones may feel inspired to repeat the rhymes or join in the fun!

If you'd like to check out our books, they are available at or on Amazon.