Raising a Reader, Naturally
                     Through Sensitivity, Guidance and Grace
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Chapter One
New Partners in Literacy and Love
Soon after Alysia was born, Alysia’s mother returned to school to complete her long interrupted education. A single mom left to raise four children she found herself with little time left in the day to nurture the intellectual needs of her infant daughter.
Yet Alysia’s mother devoted what time she had, including the time she spent meeting Alysia’s physical needs – feeding, diapering and bathing – to share with Alysia the ordinary events of her day, including her own college classroom experiences.
In addition, she encouraged Alysia’s older siblings to hold their own “conversations” with their baby sister.
She also instructed Alysia’s older brother and sisters to take turns reading their homework to their new little sister. Even as an infant, Alysia listened to daily lessons on such matters as arithmetic to a recitation of the Declaration of Independence.

Alysia’s siblings not only enjoyed their role, but according to them, “We wanted to make her smart.”
By the time Alysia entered kindergarten she could read “Easy Readers” on her own and by the end of the school year her classmates – and her teacher – looked forward to hearing Alysia read story books aloud with confidence and flair.
Right from the beginning, even as she balanced her roles as a mother of four as well as college student, Alysia’s mother made a commitment on behalf of herself and the rest of the family to give Alysia the best start.
Say “Hello.”
Say, “Hello.” Simply by saying “Hello,” upon greeting your newborn, you are beginning your child’s successful path to early literacy.
For as you stand on the dazzling edge of this 21st Century, even as you hold your newborn in your arms, it is your first greeting, your first “Hello,” that sets the process in motion. As a devoted and dedicated senior partner you have both the privilege and the opportunity to begin your child’s journey to success as the two of you share your conversations, as well as all those wonderful bedtime stories yet to come.
It need not be a difficult journey. Instead it should be natural and comfortable, free of gimmicks and commercially-hyped methods and techniques. It should be a journey filled with promise both for your child’s future and for your satisfaction in a job well done. And it all begins with your first “hello.” Most importantly, it all begins with you.
It Always Takes Two
For no child can successfully take this journey alone. It always takes two, at least two. One small partner and at least one big one. One to talk and one to listen. One to read and one to learn to read on his or her own. Just as Alysia’s mother held her early conversations with her infant daughter and devoted her time and effort to her child’s early learning and literacy skills, it is your commitment to your child’s intellectual future, your commitment to raising a successful reader and writer, that will make the difference between raising a child who succeeds and raising a child who cannot.
Just as you hold conversations with your child, your child is learning about language – your child is learning how to talk and communicate with others. As you read to your child your child is learning how to become an early reader. As you introduce your child to new experiences and ideas, your child is building knowledge.
And within a few short years you have raised a child who can succeed, a child who can read and write and subsequently one who can face the intellectual challenges that lie ahead with confidence and trust. It is never difficult to distinguish between those children who have had the attention of a devoted senior partner and those who have not.
The Best-Reader Table
Ask any first grade teacher. Ask those children who are sitting around the best-reader table on the brightly colored chairs.  These are the children who are already reading -- or at the very least are well prepared for reading -- before they ever step through the first-grade classroom door. These children, eager and ready to read, are not necessarily brighter or more gifted than other children. They are, however, the children whose parents or caregivers:
  • Talked to them, held conversations with them, from the moment they were born.
  • Read stories to them regularly – quite possibly from birth.
  • Treated them to new experiences and explained new ideas and events.
Their parents or caregivers, or senior partners if you will, may not even have been aware that they were creating early readers or that they were nurturing their child’s intellect. They simply did what came naturally for them, and what well-documented early-childhood research now supports. They devoted as much attention to their child’s intellectual growth and development as they did to their child’s physical and emotional needs.
Nurturing Baby's Intellect
And they made an enormous difference in their child’s life: For they prepared their child to succeed at an early age at a time, just as now, when students were under enormous academic pressure to succeed. To these fortunate children early success meant that they didn’t always have to lag behind or try to catch up with their classmates. It meant confidence in their ability to learn and to take satisfaction in their achievements.
It meant that someone cared enough when they were little –  when their brains were more active than they would ever be again and more receptive to learning than at any other time in their life –  to nurture them intellectually just as they fed them and cared for them in every other way.
Raising a New, Literate Citizen
And so it is with your child, even your new infant in your arms. Just what can you do to prepare this child for the challenges that surely lay ahead?
Consider the fact that your child could well live to be 100 years old. 100 years is a long time to live and be productive. We can expect a lot of changes to take place throughout a person’s lifetime -- but we can only speculate what your child will have to know to succeed. So we have to ask, what will his or her entire generation be expected to know? What knowledge will a child born today have to acquire to live successfully into the 22nd Century?
While it is difficult to speculate what the future has in store for any generation, we can safely guess that the true measure of this century will be found in the volumes and masses of new information, as well as yet to be discovered historical records spread across the depth and breadth of our civilization. And with what seems like magic from here, we can also be sure that today’s dizzying technology will spin off even greater uses and applications at speeds both faster and smarter than any of us can imagine.
Blizzards of Information?
So how can you prepare your child to learn, to comprehend, to successfully make his or her way through this upcoming blizzard of information? How can you intellectually lift your child today to the top of the knowledge and technology heap tomorrow? How can you shape your child’s character and mind so that he or she can achieve a meaningful and beneficial command of this revolution?
We already know that the future will demand a literate child, an exceptionally literate citizen of the 21st Century just to sort through his or her own limited portion of this rapidly accumulating pile of information. We know that the future will demand expert readers and writers to assimilate and process this information to make it useful to themselves and to others. Most of all it will require a child, your child, to journey along the path to literacy holding wads of pages (and software) in one hand while firmly grasping yours in the other.
But, All Right Now?
But right now, you ask?
After all, your child may be still brand new and the next few hours and weeks promise to be all consuming, what with baby’s demands and cries and endless rounds of feedings and diaper disposals. Even as the next days and nights creep (zoom?) ahead, expecting time and energy to devote to baby’s literacy skills can be overwhelming. Just finding the time to get to know the newest member of the family as well as the newest member of the family getting to know you can be asking a lot. Where will you find the energy? What are your resources?
Look no further. It is all right here, right within you. Nothing extra -- outside of a commitment between you and this still wrinkled, squinting little partner in your arms.
Just as Alysia’s mother discovered that even as you become acquainted, even as you stretch your energy to meet baby’s seemingly inexhaustible physical and emotional demands, you are also helping baby gain the knowledge upon which he or she will build important literacy skills. You can talk to baby, you can read to baby, all in the course of a regular day.
You can begin with your first conversation, with your first “hello,” and give baby the very best start you know how – right from the very beginning as the two of you journey towards a future filled with promise, love and well-earned accomplishments.