Around a month ago, I was at a baby-stuff store and I heard a conversation between two women where one of them was dismissing board books because it only takes a few minutes to read them. While I know that parents of babies are often in search of things that will amuse their children for a more significant portion of time, I couldn't help thinking that they were somewhat missing the point. At the same time, I do remember that when I started reading books with Emmett, I sometimes wondered, "Am I doing this right?" OK, I've wondered that about everything from swaddling to feeding to bathing, but I think it can be hard to figure out how to make reading with a baby a worthwhile activity. Here's what I've figured out about the process so far.
First off, if you think that holding the baby still as you read a book to him or her is the best route, you'll probably end up convinced that the kid is not yet ready for books. I mean, it may work OK at the stage where they don't move much, but you'll have better success if you let the baby move around and not worry (at least not yet) about whether they are looking at all (or any)of the pages while you read. (One exception: if you're trying to work some tummy time into the baby's routine, sometimes it works to have the baby lie across your lap and look at a book as you read it.) I've found that I can attempt readings of longer books as long as Emmett can do his thing while I read.
Sometimes the baby wants to manipulate the book so much while you're reading it that you can't actually turn the pages. Here, I think there are a couple of options. One is the "let the child play with one book while I read a different one" option, which can work fairly well. The other is to read the book anyway even without being on the right page. This only works with books that you've pretty much memorized (and I know, you're tired, you might think that memorizing something even the length of a board book is impossible!), but as you read some of these books over and over, they will get implanted in your brain and it'll be possible to "read" them without looking at every page.
(This may be a good place to put in a plug for Indestructibles, a series of books that are made to be chewed on. I remember being a little aghast the first time that Emmett ripped a book or nibbled some paper. The picture books from Indestructibles have gorgeous illustrations by Kaaren Pixton and can be chewed and easily wiped clean. Mine have gotten wrinkled but haven't gotten ripped. I keep one in my purse, one in each car, and others in various locations around the house.)
As kids get older and start paying more attention to the words and pictures on the page, there's lots you can do in terms of pointing out details in the illustrations, checking vocabulary by asking them to point at things, and so forth.
Right now, one of my favorite things to do is to combine books with songs. So, if I'm reading the Dr. Seuss ABC Book, I might sing a song like "A You're Adorable" or "Alligators All Around" before or afterward. After a book about farm animals, we might sing "Old MacDonald" or another farm song. You don't need tons of singing talent to do this, and if you don't remember all the words to songs, just make something up if you need to.
Anyway, don't worry about doing it wrong, but do read stuff to babies! I know it feels like you have to just have faith that they are getting something out of it at this stage, but it definitely matters.