Reading Their Way! Upside Down is Totally Okay

toddler reading
Credit: Terry Doherty. All Rights Reserved.

Not that long ago (at least in my mind), one of my favorite things was to watch my then toddler pick up a book and play with it. We purposefully left books everywhere.

We read together before nap time and bedtime, and would take requests throughout the day if we had them. But there were also times when my 2-year-old daughter wanted to “read” by herself.

  • For some books, she just wanted to look at the pictures.
  • For others, she recited the story because she had memorized what she had heard us read aloud 5 gazillion times.

In her mind, she was reading. She was modeling what we did. She was very proud of her abilities, and I loved it. She didn’t know it, but she was starting the process of learning to read.

So why am I rehashing all this? Because I recently read an article that talked about “book looking” and ways to encourage young children to pick up books and explore them independently. I loved everything about the article except one thing: the author explained that when her child held the book upside down, she “corrected it.”

The Case for “Reading” Upside Down …

That one sentence just won’t let go. It made me sad and it is nagging at me. So I decided to share three reasons why IMHO it is more than okay to hold – and read – books upside down (or sideways).

1. Look at the world in new and exciting ways.

Every toddler’s middle name is “Explorer.” They are sponges trying to figure out the world and themselves. Looking at a book is part of that. They probably see some fascinating things that we never even thought of. When you spot your 3-year-old reading – however they hold the book – ask questions. You’re sure to laugh together!

There are some great picture books with illustrations that turn a book sideways. If you have a fave, put it in the comments!

motor skills books
Credit: Terry Doherty. All Rights Reserved.

2. Build Motor Skills.

Playing with books is about more than learning to read. For toddlers and preschoolers grasping a book helps build the muscles they will use for writing, too. The more “touch” they can use – pointing to objects, tracing a path – the more opportunities they have for working on eye-hand coordination. Think of it like reading a map. Sometimes, it is easier to read them upside down rather than always have North at the top.

Picture books with “paths” (roads, dotted lines, etc.) are magnets for little hands that want to trace the lines. Here are two to get you started: A Long Piece of String by William Wondriska and Let’s Play! by Herve Tullet (links to Reading Tub book reviews).

3. It Does More Good than Harm.

Part of being a toddler and preschooler is figuring out the world: how it works, how they fit into it, and putting the pieces together. One of the joys of being the parent of a young child is encouraging and watching with wonder how they figure things out for themselves. Isn’t it just awesome to watch how excited they get when they do something on their own?

There are so many behavioral and safety areas where kiddos need parental intervention. How they hold a book isn’t one of them. Odds are pretty good that by the time toddlers become Kindergartners, they will have figured out the “upside right” way to hold a book.

Celebrate the moment!

Congratulate them on finding a book and picking it up all by themselves. Then ask them to read it to you … even if its upside down!