Q: My son is 3 months old. I know that "it's never too early to read to them," but he just doesn't pay attention to me. He gets distracted by any noise or color. Should I keep reading?
A: The trick is to not read what is written in a book for your baby. Instead, talk about the pictures you see, exclaiming about colors and familiar objects. You are the "Lady of the book"! You are the author in a way.
Choose books with bright, colorful pictures of familiar foods, animals, household items, and people (especially other babies). One picture per page is best at this time. Select books that have sturdy cardboard or thick plastic pages at first. Then if your baby chews on the corner of the book or at 5 months starts trying to tear pages (5 month olds love to practice ripping stuff!), the book will not get ruined.
Turn each page slowly as you sit with baby snuggled firmly in your lap facing forward so that you both can see the pictures together. Exclaim with delight and make exaggerated facial expressions as you say "Mooooo!" for a cow or "Meow!" for a kitty. Be sure to say with pride, "We read a whole book!" as you close the pages after reading a short book of colorful pictures.
As your baby grows, make sure he sees adults reading. He will learn what a pleasure books and magazines are for his precious parents.
Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D., is a professor emerita of child development at Syracuse University. She is the author of Secure Relationships: Nurturing Infant-Toddler Attachments in Early Care Settings.