Most people start reading to babies using board books which is great! Usually (but not always) board books have simple patterns, repeating lines, simple story lines, and the pictures closely match the text so they are easy for babies to enjoy and understand.
I have a lot of friends ask me when to transition from board books to regular picture books. The answer really lies with your child. I have three kids so the littlest one has always heard regular picture books as part of our routine. When he was really little he just laid there nursing while I read to the other boys. I always started with him in my lap and then he’d listen for a bit and then get down. He’d wander around the room or he’d sit and look at his own board books but he could still hear us reading and talking.
Now he’s almost 20 months and he’ll sit for 3-5 regular picture books before bed. The key is routine and also to choose books you know he can handle. I wouldn’t sit down and read a complicated or lengthy book to him at this point, but it is good for him to expand his reading horizons and hear books with more of a story line. I ask him questions and although he can’t always answer, he often tries and says what he can. The point is that I include him and he knows that I will be asking him questions about the book and expecting him to contribute to our discussion.
I usually choose 3 or 4 books that I know he likes and then add one new one. If he likes that one, I’ll add it to the familiar reading pile and add another new one. Just go with the flow….if he’s not into it and wants to get down, that’s ok. Sometimes I keep reading even if he doesn’t seem interested and he’ll come back around and climb back into my lap. I’ve also let him hold one of his board books while I’m reading the other book and that keeps him interested as well.
There’s no true age at which to transition so play it by ear and remember, those old board books are still great for him too! We read a few each night and even my 5 year old thinks they’re great and loves to hear some of his old favorites.