How to Foster an Affinity for Reading in Toddlers (Age 1-3) - NariShakti How to Foster an Affinity for Reading in Toddlers (Age 1-3) | NariShakti Humane ClubMade with Humane Club

How to Foster an Affinity for Reading in Toddlers (Age 1-3)

Published Apr 08, 2019
Updated Sep 09, 2023

Co-authored with Ritvvij Parrikh.

Like most rewarding experiences in life, reading is an acquired taste; it doesn’t come naturally.

The functional advantages of reading are clear, ranging from language development to the introduction of concepts like numbers, shapes, colors, and even social norms like sharing and friendship. More importantly, we wanted Sabi to embrace reading as a leisure activity, something that people do for fun when they’re bored.

Broadly, activities can be categorized into two types: escape activities and work activities. Escape activities are what we engage in for relaxation or almost subconsciously. Nowadays, these often involve scrolling through social media or watching TV. In contrast, work activities usually involve high cognitive load and have a clear start and end point.

Here’s what worked for Sabi between the ages of 1 and 3:

Books as everyday objects

We don’t question the accessibility of essential items like a toilet, toothbrush, or food. In the same vein, we made sure interesting books were always within reach.


Our drawing room’s centerpiece has always been our library, rather than a television set.

Books as Toys

From a very early age, we included books among her toys. She might chew on them, step on them, or stack things on them.

What if books are toys?

However, she would also flip through the pictures multiple times a day, even if the book was upside down.

Glancing through books

Impulse Reading

As she grew older, we designed her bookshelves to lay the books flat so she could easily see their covers. We would also rotate the books every few days, piquing her curiosity and encouraging her to pick them up.

Bookshelf design

Reading Parties 🥳 🎉

We carved out one-on-one time to read books with her. As working parents, this was premium time where both parent and child could be fully present. We also encouraged reading sessions with grandparents and other family members.

We often read the same books over and over, which helped her grasp the content. She began to anticipate the narratives and engage more proactively.

We reading to her. Grandparents and aunt reading to her.

Reading with family

She reading with her friends.

Reading party with friends.

She reading to us.

We also encouraged her to “read” aloud, even though she didn’t yet know how to recognize letters or words, by looking at the pictures and verbalizing what she saw.

Alone time.

It’s important for children to have periods of boredom and solitude. When Sabi was bored, we encouraged “me time,” where she could independently browse through books. Over time, she became comfortable being alone with her books.

Sabi glancing through pictures in the day’s newspaper.

Toddler glancing through newspaper

Sitting and glancing through pictures alone.

Toddler learning to spend time alone with books.

Choice of books

Vocabulary building

We selected books that would help her identify daily objects and understand the world around her.

  • Dr. Seuss’s 100 First Words, 1000 First Words, I know my numbers, I know my colors
  • “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” introduced ideas from biology (how the caterpillar grows), healthy eating, math, and time in an interactive fashion.
  • “Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes” was another favorite book that introduced Sabi to counting and body awareness.
  • Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Toddler finds out names of her favorite food.

Dealing with emotions

Books like “Llama Llama Red Pajama” and “Llama Llama Wakey-Wake” helped her manage sleep-time anxieties and understand morning routines.

  • Sleep-time anxieties. “Llama Llama Red Pajama” helped Sabi deal with bed time worries like — “Where’d Mom go?” to “Will she come back?”
  • Morning routine. Mornings are always hectic for working parents. “Llama Llama Wakey-Wake” helped Sabi understand the concept of time management especially for mornings — starting your day, brushing, dressing, breakfast, cuddles with mother, etc. with family.
  • Dealing with tantrums. “Llama Llama Mad at Mama” helped deal with situations when things won’t go her way in a public setting.
  • Preparing to go to school. The book “Llama Llama Misses Mama” was pivotal in helping Sabi understand and deal with separation anxiety as she explored pre-school. In the book, Llama Llama feels nervous, sad, but eventually comforted and happy.


As she got older, we introduced her to adult doodling books to normalize the idea of “big books.” This helped her become more familiar with visual communication.

Learning to doodle from “big books”

By employing these strategies, we’ve found that reading has become a meaningful and enriching experience for Sabi.