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What books are best for an 18-month-old?
We are told to read to our 18-month-old grandson, but what types of books should we choose? Should we start with books that have big pictures and few words and then progress to more advanced material, or does it matter? My grandson won’t sit still if it’s not something that he likes to look at.

You’ve answered your question better and more succinctly than I could, but I’ll add a few words anyway. Pictures are very important in books for toddlers. They can relate to the pictures and form associations with their own lives. But those little squiggles of black ink don’t convey much meaning to them. If you don’t believe that, just try reading something written in Arabic or Chinese and note how quickly your attention wanders!

So the inclusion of pictures is an important first rule. A second is to make sure some of the pictures relate to people, animals and familiar objects. Toddlers love to point to pictures as you read. If you are reading about a dog, occasionally say, “Show me the doggie” or “Point to the doggie.” You may need to take his index finger and touch the correct picture until he gets the idea.

A third quality I love is a toddler book that encourages participation. An excellent example is “Pat the Bunny” by Dorothy Kunhardt. The story tells about a little boy and a little girl, Paul and Judy, who do different things in the story, like playing peek-a-boo, putting a finger through Mommy’s ring, etc. The child being read to is invited to do the same thing; the book includes props that allow him to imitate the action. Babies and toddlers love to be read to in this fashion.

Go to your public library and review the wondrous array of children’s books on the shelves. After looking around, you’ll never again have a problem deciding what to read. Even so, let your grandson be your number one book reviewer. He knows what he likes and will not be shy about letting you know. The important thing is to keep on reading to him.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education