Reading is a fundamental part of early visual and auditory development. It can also serve as the building block for compassion, empathy, and comprehension beyond the book's structural context. As a parent, you want your child to have the aforementioned traits, but it's also possible you're unknowingly preventing them from enjoying when you read. If you're constantly asking yourself, "Why does my baby hate me reading to them?" it's time to stop and think about what led you to this particular place to begin with.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a division of the U.S. Department of Education, cites that "children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not," with those read to regularly reported to be more likely to count to 20, or higher, than those who were not read to, write their names, and read themselves (or pretend to). The University of Albany recommends reading to your child 15-20 minutes a day to jump start their love of reading, and reminds parents that reading sessions can go on as long as your child remains interested. It's important not to force or coerce reading time if your baby seems bothered by or uninterested in it, though, and it's perfectly fine to move on to something else or choose a more enticing book.
According to PBS, the first step to de-code your baby's disinterest in your reading is to take a step back to re-examine what interests your baby. If you're reading something beyond your baby's scope of interest — like adult non-fiction — you can't be surprised by their disinterested reaction. It's important to pay attention to your child's reaction in order to gauge if it's you or, perhaps, the book choice. Once you've established what they're into, take smaller steps. If your baby tends to gravitate towards animals and bold colors, try a short picture book with vivid photos instead of, say, The Cat In The Hat (for now). If you jump too far too soon, you risk your baby disengaging from you reading to them.
With your baby's vision still in development, Parents suggests picking books with "little or no text and big, high-contract pictures" or the interactive kind with things like puppets or materials that your baby can touch. They'll start recognizing some of the words you're saying, like "mommy," around 7-12 months old. For babies up to 1-year-old, it's more about the snuggle time you both can share during a reading session, as well as the added benefit of your child having something fun to look at while you're reading.
If you truly feel your baby hates you reading to them, you should note the timing of your reading sessions, according to HuffPost. If your baby fusses closer to bed and nap times, you could be competing with fatigue and irritability. And if that is the case, try choosing a time when they're more alert. Creating a safe, nurturing environment for reading might also mean a little trial and error. After you've pinpointed what excites your baby, find an age-appropriate book and give it another try. When they're not as interested in the book's content, try talking about the pictures or making corresponding sounds to pull them back in. You don't always have to stick to the words of the book itself. Instead, you can branch off and use the book as a teaching moment, or simply a talking point.
Chances are, your baby doesn't really hate the fact that you spend your time you reading to them. There's a lot of other factors to consider, as mentioned above, that likely have more to do with what they'd rather be doing in the moment you've decided is time to read. While you should step back to pinpoint the true issue, don't stop reading altogether. In fact, Dr. Pamela High — who released a paper with the American Academy of Pediatrics on the importance of reading early and often — tells Time your baby's attention span is around 90 seconds. So maybe it's not you at all. Choose something to read that both of you will enjoy will allow you to show your baby how much joy reading can bring. Your excitement will create their enjoyment, and hopefully a future love of reading.
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