Monday, July 16, 2012

Reading to a Young Toddler, the Montessori Way

  We love books! Daddy and I have always had a full selection of books in the house and are always in need of a new bookcase.  So, naturally, we wanted to share books with Q-ball. In fact, the theme of Q-ball's baby shower was books!  While we read to Q-ball from her birth, she did not begin to show her true interest in reading until about 11 months.  Since that time, she reads far more than Mama and Daddy!
   Within Q-ball's current space are two shelves full of books.  I had debated putting out so many, but she always seems interested and is able to "clean up" with some reminders, so I leave the bulk of our board books available.  We do, however, rotate books from the library in and out to introduce new topics and to prevent constant repetitiveness (for Mama and Q-ball!).
   However, I recently realized that I had not researched Dr. Montessori's thoughts on books for infants and toddlers. The goal of reading to this age group, according to Montessori experts, is to introduce new vocabulary words, model the use of books, and to foster a connection between caregiver and child through reading.
   Here are some of the tips I found for creating your own Montessori-inspired library:
Reading with her uncle
  •  Board books are best for this young age.  But, high-quality children's book with regular pages and dust covers should also be introduced to the child with an adult's supervision.
  • Books should be easily accessible to children in a basket or low shelf.  Special books, however, should be stored away from the child and only brought out when they are read.
  • Proper care and respect of books should be modeled to children- how to turn the pages, how to hold the book, and how to return the book to its location.
  • As toddlers are actively looking to learn new words, books can be used to extend their vocabulary. These books should have simple, large images matching the words with the pictures.
  • As with toys, children should have access to favorite books, but there should also be a rotation of new books to keep children engaged. Only a few books should be available to a child at any given time. (To see the science behind this, check out this Science Friday.)
  • When reading to a child, make sure that you are interested! A child's love of books will come when it is modeled by his role models. Likewise, ensure your child sees you reading for your own pleasure.
  • Topics and pictures in books should represent a variety of cultures and topics.
  • Books should stay focused on reality and shy away from topics of animals that talk and sing. Young toddlers are still working to figure out our real, everyday world, and fantasy stories can confuse them.  I must say these can be harder to find in board books! But, I like this quote from Micheal Olaf's site about the importance of this.
 We should check that they [books] present reality, since at this age children are trying to make sense of the environment and the life around them. There is nothing more extraordinary and interesting than our own daily life. Fantasy can come later—after reality has been experienced and absorbed.—Dr. Silvana Montanaro
   Based upon this research, I'm going to make a few changes. For one thing, I'm packing away many of the books we have out.  I have out way too many right now!  And, I want to start reading more of the "special" books with Q-ball to ensure she knows how to care for these books as well.

Does your child love reading?  What does reading look like at your house? 

Olaf, M. (2010). The joyful child. Montessori from birth to three. Retrieved from
Lillard, P.P. & Jessen, L.L. (2003). Montessori from the start: The child at home, from birth to age three. Random House: NY.


  1. These are all amazing tips and important to keep in mind. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Isn't it fantastic to see them catch the reading bug!? I'd love to hear about some of your favorite books for Q-ball that you feel fit the Montessori criteria. "Great Board Books" for a Montessori toddler is one of those posts that has been in my drafts for ages - hopefully I'll finish it one day! But I'm always looking for more! I agree that it can be tough to find a good variety of books for this age that are reality-based.

  3. Hope they help you! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I've got a short list going of books we've liked, and I want to do a post, but, like you, it might be awhile...and, it is hard to find true Montessori books, so mine might push the limit. :)

  5. Angela @ Happy Fit MamaJuly 17, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    My twins love reading! Our house was being over ruled by books so I made a point to pack away some so there is a steady rotation of "new" books. It keeps them happy and my house doesn't look like a bomb exploded. Oh wait, it still looks like that but not as bad. ;)

  6. Yes- I finally packed our excess books away last week- so much better!

  7. Great suggestions! I still remember the wonderful times I had reading to my kids when they toddlers (even though they're now 22 and 27). It's amazing how early children can learn to love and respect books when they're given the opportunity. Thanks for linking up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page and pinned it to my Toddlers - Activities and Ideas Pinterest Board at

  8. Thank you! I really liked that the information I read mentioned that part of the purpose of reading is bonding. It certainly creates wonderful memories!

  9. Thanks for posting the skinny on books/organizing from Montessori. We've got more books than we have rooms for -- way more than 2 child sized shelves, and we think that is a good problem to have. We found it best to have a small book stacks in certain places ( like stations) in the house: bedroom and by the bed, living room ( we only have one living area), and most important the kitchen. Many of her books at 12 months were the illustrated versions of the songs or 'nursery rhyme' stories she liked to sing. The idea though of only a couple of books for access at any one time would not work in this house ( I say that laughing). While she rotates the books by her interest herself, a couple of books is 'not enough' to get through the day.

  10. We certainly violate the "only a few books rule" all the time, too. We seem to come home from the library with at least 3 books a week to add to our stack. But, I have noticed that Q-ball (now 28 months) typically gets stuck on maybe 4 books a week that we'll read over and over, and then she'll move on.

  11. This is such a helpful pos.t! Thank you! My toddler loves books, and it was interesting to look at them from a Montessori perspective


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