Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six (Hardcover)
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An award-winning journalist and literacy advocate provides a clear, step-by-step guide to helping your child thrive as a reader and a learner.
When her child went off to school, Maya Smart was shocked to discover that a good education in America is a long shot, in ways that few parents fully appreciate. Our current approach to literacy offers too little, too late, and attempting to play catch-up when our kids get to kindergarten can no longer be our default strategy. We have to start at the top. The brain architecture for reading develops rapidly during infancy, and early language experiences are critical to building it. That means parents’ work as children’s first teachers begins from day one too—and we need deeper knowledge to play our positions.
Reading for Our Lives challenges the bath-book-bed mantra and the idea that reading aloud to our kids is enough to ensure school readiness. Instead, it gives parents easy, immediate, and accessible ways to nurture language and literacy development from the start. Through personal stories, historical accounts, scholarly research, and practical tips, this book presents the life-and-death urgency of literacy, investigates inequity in reading achievement, and illuminates a path to a true, transformative education for all.
About the Author
Maya Payne Smart is a writer, parent educator, and literacy advocate who has served on the boards of numerous library and literacy organizations. She and her family live in Milwaukee, where she serves as affiliated faculty in educational policy and leadership in the College of Education at Marquette University. Her website, MayaSmart.com, provides tips and tools for parents to nurture, teach, and advocate for kids on the road to reading.
"Reading For Our Lives is the book to turn to when nurturing critical readers. Like reading, Smart's book is for our children's lives. Don't miss out because our kids must not miss out on the life-giving power of reading."
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist
"A must-read for any parent! This exceptional book walks you through not only the why of reading to your child, but the way. The scientifically-grounded, step-by-step insights outlined here can heighten both your and your child’s joy at learning one of life’s most important skills: reading."
—Barbara Oakley, New York Times bestselling author of A Mind for Numbers
"I anticipate a revolution of reading readiness once parents get their hands on this book! In Reading for Our Lives, Maya Smart puts her faith in parents as the key participants in leading our youngest learners into literacy. No more tears over tedious workbooks or relentless drilling. Instead, Smart offers countless, actionable tips and practices to be used at home. Smart rightly claims that learning to read is of urgent, liberating importance for today's children. Preparing them at home so that they are equipped for school is a gift any parent can easily give their children, with Smart's book in hand. I'll be recommending Reading for Our Lives for years to come. It's the best book about learning to read I've ever read!"
—Julie Bogart, creator and founder of Brave Writer, author of The Brave Learner and Raising Critical Thinkers
"I have rarely had as visceral a reaction to a book as I had in reading Maya Smart’s brilliant and life-changing Reading For Our Lives. Like her namesake Maya Angelou, who suffered childhood trauma and couldn’t speak, only to become a world-class orator and writer, Smart helps us to navigate the perilous but fulfilling route from birth to literacy in the first six years of life. This is a book that every parent must read to make sure their children reach their full potential as readers and citizens of our nation"
—Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times bestselling author of Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America, co-author of Unequal: A Story of America
"An amazing book for perhaps the most important job parents have: getting our kids to love to read."—Ryan Holiday, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Daily Stoic, The Obstacle Is the Way, and Ego Is the Enemy
“This book is a wonderful resource for families with young children, as it recognizes them as the child’s first teachers. It weaves together an introduction to early literacy through the child’s ages and stages with recommendations that support raising a reader!”
—Ann McClain Terrell, Early Childhood Education Consultant and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Past President
"Parents will find Smart’s solid advice well worth returning to."—Publishers Weekly
"In this useful book for parents, Smart, an educator and literacy advocate, provides guidelines for expanding a child’s reading capabilities, laying out the necessary steps for creating an eager reader.... Smart is a knowledgeable, capable guide who has distilled a vast amount of research into an approachable package. A solid resource for diligent parents who want to create readers for life."—Kirkus