An Obsessed Toddler is the Perfect Pre-Reader

Toddlers get obsessed.

  • Trucks? CHECK!
  • Firefighter hat? CHECK!
  • Pink tutu? CHECK!

Almost every parent has countless stories to tell about their child’s obsessions and the funny stories that came about because of them.
Pack a lunch: you might be stopping at every construction site you see to sit for a while and watch.
Get a nose plug: don’t EVEN try to take off that firefighter hat to wash hair!
Buy a comfy couch: you’ll be watching that new ballet movie 17 times straight. And 42 times later after that.
We’ve all been there, in one way or another. Whether it’s construction or trains or Princess Barbie, the drill is the same. Our kids live it and breathe it until we think we just can’t stand it.  I was lucky. Benny got obsessed with a teeny tiny guitar when he was two – to the point that he was sleeping with it as though it were a teddy bear! We picked up a VHS blues guitar video at a yard sale and he watched it until I almost (but not quite) stopped loving my favorite music!

So how is an obsessed toddler is the perfect pre-reader?

  • When little Jimmy wants nothing but more trains, trains, trains give him just that. Go to the library and lead him to all those delectable books about trains. If his name isn’t Jimmy, it’ll be harder. 😎
  • Get your child their own library card and let them begin to check out a few books at a time. Make sure to explain that you guys can go back and check out more books when they’ve been read (probably ad nauseum)! They’ll begin to understand the concept of libraries, the borrow system, and that the books are not theirs to keep…and that they can always get new ones!
  • Let your child not only pick books you read together, but also decide what and how long you read a specific book. It’s okay if they want to stop in the middle – prolonged attention spans haven’t kicked in yet!
  • They might want to just look at it all by themselves or better yet, let them “read” to you!

Catch your kid at being good!

  • Gift a new book about trucks/hats/tutus/whatever
  • Put it on their pillow as a surprise bedtime story surprise.
  • Earn star stickers for a new book.
  • Buy books at yard sales.

What do you do if your child expresses no interest in books at all?

  • Leave piles of books all over the house, within reach. (If it’s a paper book and they need supervision, you can leave it on a high shelf where it is still visible.)
  • Keep a bunch of books in the car. Don’t push your kid to read them – just have the books within reach.
  • When you do have that picnic as you watch the construction site, read the book about trucks right then and there.
  • Leave books just lying around and let them discover it or re-discover it on their own.

Forcing a child to sit down and listen to a book before they’re ready will send the wrong message. You don’t want them to start to see it as something to dread, not cherish. And if they get a cuddle with you, it’ll soon be something they’re begging for.
If all else fails, grab a truck, a firehat, and a tutu and get that kid obsessed!

Recent Comments

  • Brenda
    August 6, 2012 - 4:26 pm · Reply

    Your methods to grow young readers are right on. That approach worked for my own children and my grandchildren-except for one grandchild. My third grandchild has a reading disability and totally dislikes books. They must represent frustration to him. He is getting wonderful help in school and making great progress but he never will pick up a book that I have just ‘laying around’ my house. I find books about subjects that interest him and try to make book time very interactive and fun but I can’t seem to catch his attention. This summer he visited me at my summer home. I told him that I had brought some books home from the library that I thought he would like. His response, “Grandma, why would you ruin a vacation with books.”
    What can I do? Any suggestions?

    • katie
      August 6, 2012 - 7:35 pm · Reply

      Yep! Here are a few:
      -audio books… Just have them on when you get in the car – mysteries are great because it’s hard to get out of the car!
      -scavenger hunt… find the things on the list…items that are in a particular book. The prize could be a trip to the ice cream parlor, a movie, a trip to Six Flags.
      -watch a movie that was based on the book and again, a prize for a list of the differences between the two (I have no problem bribing!)
      -you wrote that you picked out books you thought he’d like. How about a trip to the book store or library and let him pick them out? Let him get comic books if he wants, or graphic novels, a nonfiction book on whatever he loves. It doesn’t have to be fiction.
      Let me know if anything works!

  • Sarah South
    September 3, 2012 - 7:44 pm · Reply

    I LOVE this- sooo spot on. My three year old is madly obsessed with construction trucks and trains, and he can tell you all about them. (Down to how the hydraulics work and everything!)
    He is also eager to learn to read, but only the things that interest him (duh!). He will randomly ask me to show him how to spell “tr” truck, “tr” track, and “tr” train, as he sounds them out. It makes my heart melt when I see him making the mental connection that these sounds together make words, and that words have meaning. It is magical to watch.
    But like you said, don’t force them to read! It doesn’t work. As a matter of fact, I’ve found that forcing a 2-3 year old to do anything is pretty much completely futile. We just have to do our best to guide our kids, without being crazy, overbearing, micro managers! Kids are natural born learners, and it’s up to us to nourish that desire.

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