Skip-around reading

Your 18-month old drops a book off in your lap, climbs up on the chair beside you, grabs the book and opens it to the middle, and wants you to read here. Not the first page–here. After you read that page, she finds another page. Now read there. 

Does that sound familiar?

If story time with your toddler seems to be mostly skip-around reading–a page here and a page there–does that mean your child is too young for books? Not at all. It’s part of her exploration of how books work.

When adults pick up a picture book, we assume we should start on page one and read every page until the very last.  We naturally think in sequence and want to read the pages in order, but active reading centers around the child and her level of attention. A young toddler doesn’t think of the beginning, middle, end of books. After all, when she sits down to play with blocks, it doesn’t matter which block she picks up first. The big red one? Or how about a small yellow one? Either one works. She’s not yet learned that pages of books are different than blocks.

Eventually, she’ll realize the pages in order tell a story, and that understanding comes gradually over time. For now she’s approaching the pages of a book in a similar way to other objects in her world.

To a very young child, reading can be a start anywhere/stop anywhere activity.

Is that okay? Certainly.

Here are a few ways a toddler demonstrates learning during skip-around reading:

If a toddler opens the book to a random start page…

…she shows she knows about books and pages by opening the book. Opening the book is her signal to you–time to start! Excellent!

If a toddler looks for the same page each time that book is read…

…she’s demonstrating her memory to recall enjoyment of a specific page. Impressive!

If a toddler looks at the picture and listens to you read and talk about the pictures for a page or two…

…she has participated in a language-building experience. Valuable!

If a toddler chooses a certain page and you respond by reading that page…

… she knows you understood her request. That’s a brain-building conversation!

Reading a book with a young toddler isn’t about getting from the first to the last page of the story. Practicing some new vocabulary, taking part in a back-and-forth conversation, and sharing positive experiences with books are more important than reading every page in order.

Your little one’s attention will grow. Continue to repeat stories where she finds an interesting picture. Attention for  a page or two will eventually extend to the next page and the next.   Finally, she will want you to start at the beginning and read to the very end of a favorite book–again and again. Instead of skip-around reading, she will firmly object if you should try to skip a page!

Photo by donnierayjones

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