Reading to young infants is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. What counts most in becoming a book-mommy/daddy is sharing books together as early as possible and then improving through practice. Here are some tips to help you on that learning curve.
Begin as soon as Baby is old enough to sit on your lap and focus on something other than your face. At first you choose the book, but before long offer a few choices and let Baby indicate his/her interest, whether by grabbing or smiling or even chewing. From an early age individual children may show a preference in book type, just as older people do: books with animals or people, single images or colorful pages, one word or a story line. As soon as Baby is capable, encourage him or her to turn the page.
Don’t feel compelled to read every word on the page just as printed: take your cue from Baby about what’s most interesting. Use your own finger to point to and name various objects, actions or colors on the page. Repeat the words. You can read words straight from the book, but you can also use simpler, more familiar language. At this stage there’s no such thing as “right” or “wrong” words: whatever language engages the child is fine. For example, in a book about colors, Baby may be more interested in the names of the objects or what action is happening. It’s perfectly ok to “read” the book in that way. The parent will know what content the book is intended to teach; but it is not the only way it can be used. What matters most is involving the child in looking and in listening happily.
Do not assume that a book is “too old” for your child. A picture book with a complicated plot can still be fascinating for a baby or toddler. Simply point out animals or objects or actions and turn the pages as quickly as Baby wants to; or you can “tell the story” simply without reading the text word for word. As Baby becomes older, invite him/her to point to or speak about elements on the page. “Where is the sheep?” or “What does the doggie say?” are questions that will increase your child’s interest in reading together. Most of all, have fun!