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Reading to a Two-Year-Old

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have a two-year-old sister who I've been trying to read with, to no success. She keeps turning the pages impatiently or closing the book.

A: Your desire to teach your baby sister to read is most loving. She is, however, too young to fully appreciate or understand your efforts. At two years of age, children do not have the brain development to master the complex skill of reading. Unlike language, which naturally comes to children, reading needs to be taught and all children have their own natural learning schedule when it comes to reading. At two, I would expect her to lose interest, turn the book's pages impatiently and wish to do something else. While reading to her will always be a wonderful thing to do, asking her to sit still and learn to read is not appropriate at this time. In fact, showing your disappointment and frustration with her disinterest will further push her away from wanting to read or be read to.

You may enrich her desire to read by continuing to converse with her, playing with her, reading to her and telling her stories. These are but a few of the activities that you can engage her in that are appropriate for her age. Use our site's search function to type in "learning to read" -- we have loads of great tips and resources for you that will benefit your sister. You may also be able to use the information in Stages of Reading Development, a book by Professor Jeanne Chall.

You are a kind and loving sister and she is blessed to have you. Thanks for writing and for understanding what is appropriate for your sister at this time.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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