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

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

Maya Payne Smart. Avery, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-33217-7

“We can’t afford to continue pretending that a hodgepodge of reactivity and remediation can get millions of children reading well enough to flourish,” warns journalist Smart in her debut, a manifesto on the importance of instilling language skills in children. Smart notes that subpar reading skills can affect one’s “wellness, employment, housing, and even the likelihood of incarceration,” and cites data showing that American kids are falling behind: “5-year-olds have ‘significantly lower’ emergent literacy than kids in other countries,” and just 14% of 15-year-olds “read well enough to comprehend lengthy texts.” Reading before bedtime won’t cut it: language learning starts in utero by about 35 weeks gestation, Smart writes, and synapses involved in language learning peak during the first six months of life. To get kids back on track, Smart offers up her TALK method, which involves taking turns exchanging baby babble with infants, asking questions of babies even before they’re able to respond, labeling and pointing out words and objects, and keeping conversations going at every opportunity. She suggests easy-to-follow exercises, too, such as “After I close a book, I will share what I liked most about it.” Parents will find Smart’s solid advice well worth returning to.[em] (July) [/em]