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I’m trying to read to my twins, now just over one-year-old, but they seem to find it hard to concentrate long enough for me to get through a whole book. What can you suggest in the way of titles and hints about how to do it?

It’s so good that you’re spending time sharing books with your toddlers and of course it is quite a challenge to read to two as they don’t always feel in the same mood at the same time! The most important thing is to make it all fun and not to go for long sessions, or carry on when they are clearly not with you. Books with an interactive element work really well as having something to join in with can help the concentrationa and turns the reading experience into a game – one that will be a real pleasure for you and for them.
There are many lovely, large-size board books of traditional rhymes and songs, Child’s Play publish a large range all are very child-centred as entertaining pictures of toddlers fill every page. You could start with Row, Row, Your Boat, fun to share and the pictures suggest the actions for children as they listen to the song – you don’t have to sing it as it reads beautifully as a rhyme. The final page is great as it invites children to roar like a lion. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes… works in much the same way. These books will be wanted again and again as they’re short but very satisfying.
Lift -the-flap books will be fun too as long as you can persuade the twins to lift the flaps in turn. My two all-time favourites are Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo which is probably the perfect book for one and two-year olds, and Eric Hill’s Where’s Spot? in which the missing Spot has to be searched for through the book. These books hold children’s attention for as many times as you can read them.
Children will enjoy texts that they can join in with such as The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs. This is a romp of a story about a naughty baby and an elephant; the two go ‘rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the street’ on every page leaving chaos and a growing number of people running behind them. This is a longer story but is full of fun and with the rumpetas to join in with, keeps children concentrating. A shorter one is Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury, which tells of babies being born in all sorts of situations all round the world and all of them ‘ as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes’. This is a great line for toddlers to join in with and they love to count their own fingers and toes and hear about when and where they were born as the story proceeds.
As you all get more comfortable with books move on to such favourites as We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, and Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. These books are great for interaction, your children will be off around the house on a bear hunt as they listen to the first and both you and they will dance along with the strong rhythms of the second. And for a very new book, more expensive because still only in hardback, look at Toucan Can! by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davies. The text is wonderfully crazy and the book demands participation.
Remember, if you’re stuck for titles your local library staff will always help you.
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