Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six

Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six

by Maya Payne Smart
Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six

Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six

by Maya Payne Smart



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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593332184
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/02/2022
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 240
File size: 2 MB

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,, provides tips and tools for parents to nurture, teach, and advocate for kids on the road to reading.

Table of Contents

Introduction: We Should All Be Readers 1

1 Beyond Bedtime Stories: The Truth about Getting Kids Ready to Read 17

2 The Long Run: How to Nurture Reading at Each Age and Stage 39

3 Yes You Can: Five Touchstones for Parents Who Dare to Teach 61

4 You're Hired: Essential Lessons Every Parent Can-and Should-Give Kids 71

5 Nourishing Words: The Lasting Impact of Early Language 83

6 Taking Turns: How to Make Conversation a Habit from Day One 99

7 Sound Instruction: The Tenor of Reading Success 119

8 L Is for Liberation: How to Help Kids Crack the Alphabetic Code 133

9 Word Wisdom: How to Spell Your Way to Better Reading 153

10 Extra Credit: How Savvy Parents Keep Learning 177

Conclusion: Raising All Readers 189

Bonus Chapter: How to Assess Childcare Providers and Schools from an Early-Lite racy Perspective 195

Multimedia Resources 196

Acknowledgments 197

Notes 201

Index 225

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