‘Reading for Our Lives’ by Maya Payne Smart

Let me start this post by saying I’ve never been a big believer in the idea that kids need to have reached some specific level of education or hit a particular set of developmental milestones before they’ve reached kindergarten age, or whatever it is that would give them a leg up on the “competition.”

My feelings are more like, they’ll learn what they need to know when they’re ready, and our job is simply to guide and encourage them along the way. Every kid is different; we can’t force them all into the same box. It’s actually one of my big gripes with the education system, and a major reason why my wife and I homeschool.

That said, I do still think that literacy is a critical skill in life, and one worth instilling in kids at a young age if possible. Which is precisely the premise of Maya Payne Smart’s new book, Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan from Birth to Six, a step-by-step guide to raising good readers.

The reason for my preamble earlier is that this book leans hard into that whole “school readiness” thing I’m not a fan of, but if nurturing critical reading skills is important to you, then Reading for Our Lives has a ton of actionable advice based on scientific research and academic literature, all to help your kid create a solid foundation of reading skills and language proficiency from an early age.

From the book description:

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.

Get the book in these formats: