Raising a Reader, Naturally
                     Through Sensitivity, Guidance and Grace
 
This entire book, Raising a Reader, Naturally, is free -- and always will be.
 
You can read it all right here...

                                                            
 
Introduction
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Fortunate Child
 
 
If you had a mother or father, or grandparent, or care-giver that carried on “conversations” with you when you were still gooing and cooing then you were a most fortunate child. And if you had someone who held you close and read stories and poems to you even from your earliest hours or days, you were even more fortunate.
 
And if this caring and loving partner played peek-a-boo and this-little-piggy with you, and helped you spell your name with building blocks, and pointed out street signs and the labels on your Cherrio’s box, then I’m sure you still remember the warm pride you felt when your first-grade classmates looked upon you with awe. At a very early age you were already recognized as an “expert” reader. And deservedly so.  For you not only read early, but continued to become a life-long reader – a triumph, a reading success.
 
Ahead of your class, in just your first four, five or six years, you had already become a literate human being, at least as far as early literacy goes. Then if before the glow of “best reader in the class” had a chance to fade, your father or mother, or grandparent, or favorite aunt or uncle insisted upon maintaining your regular run to the local library, insisted upon continuing to read with you and reinforce your school-learned lessons at home, you no doubt continued on at the head of your class. And if your conversations with older siblings or tutors or other significant adults helped you continue to make connections to new ideas and words and subject matter, then it is easy to understand the pride you felt in your achievements and academic success.
 
And So, It’s All Natural?
 
As a most fortunate individual, right from the very beginning, you were blessed with a natural road to reading success. No one waited until you were in first grade to introduce you to the alphabet song or impress upon you the structure and meaning of language. No one pretended “there wasn’t time” to play games with you, or read Yertle the Turtle to you, or to help you “write” your third-birthday-party grocery list. An “expert” you were guided through the language and reading process essentially from birth. And you did not do it alone.
 
Much research has been published that supports and gives its blessing to the fortunate life of an early reader.  Just as we have long suspected, literacy begins at birth and continues throughout our life, but most successfully, especially in the early years, through the support of partners or caring adults. Structured classroom reading instruction has its place -- mostly as a means of catch-up for less fortunate children. But early literacy is largely dependent upon someone from whom one can learn, who will be there for support, moral and otherwise, and who most of all is a willing and interested partner throughout a child’s early years.

Now, Where Do You Begin?
 
And so now, expert reader, it is your turn to hand off this privilege to the newest generation.  But where do you begin? How will you know when it’s time to learn the alphabet? The sounds of the letters? To sound out words? “Do no damage,” the old axiom shouts. Yet there’s always that risk when taking a child down a prescribed and structured path to literacy. Such a path is often strewn with rules that barely or never apply -- or worse, there is little or no consideration given to individual differences and learning paces. It is much easier to start early and let the reading process evolve in a natural sort of way. It is far more pleasant to let the introduction of oral and written language become a natural part of a child’s day; to help your child understand the purpose and structure of print; to guide your little partner naturally through the appropriate skills as he or she learns to read and write. It is always a delight. All you need to do is dedicate yourself to the task at hand – then let this book be your guide.

The Less Fortunate Child
 
If perchance you were not a fortunate child with partners willing and able to guide you through the reading process, and you instead were forced to learn to read from structured first or second-grade lessons along with 25 other less fortunate children, do not despair. Even if you were left to struggle along behind your classmates this book is still for you. In fact, it is mostly for you. For it will show you how you can successfully guide your child along the path to literacy, as well as to explain why you need to help. So if you were not an early reader yourself and feel you have missed something important in your own reading journey, dedicating yourself now to your child’s future success should help make it up to you.

Sensitivity, Guidance and Grace

Early readers can not be forced – they can only grow naturally under the loving tutelage of someone they know and trust. So as you take up this book, you will discover that your child’s learning-to-read journey is mostly a natural process, because essentially that’s what it should be. Of course learning to read entails mastery of certain skills and practices along the way.
 
Successful reading partners, however, do not necessarily have to adhere to any child development time-lines or predetermined schedules – they simply progress at their own pace. They practice a continuous flow of learning and reading development. They start with the introduction of both oral and written language; move on to the gradual mastery of appropriate skills until the Hallelujah day when the little partner becomes a fluent and expert reader.
 
It all follows a natural progression, always continuing to build upon what a little partner already knows and then expanding his or her skills as appropriate. There are no grade levels (or grades!) here – only sensitivity, guidance and grace.
 
Whew! No Rigid Reading Method
 
Neither does this book adhere to any particular reading method. No whole language, no exclusive concentration on phonics, but rather an approach that relies upon introducing skills and techniques when and as they are needed. In reality, if handled naturally under the care and tutelage of a senior partner, chances are the littlest partner will hardly notice that learning to read is really hard work. What’s more, there is very little you have to learn to help your little partner succeed. Mostly, you just have to be there.

Creating a Thomas Edison, Jane Austen, or Shakespeare?

If it’s all so easy, you say, why then haven’t we thought of this before? The answer is we have. Shakespeare’s parents no doubt thought of this, as did Thomas Edison’s and Jane Austen’s. And they certainly did all right. The problem is that the 20th century came roaring up behind us and by the 21st century we all became so busy we decided it was best to leave the whole learning-to-read business to the bedraggled first-grade teacher. It hasn’t, of course, worked out very well.
 
So now our newest century cries out for expert readers and we find ourselves pretty much at a loss. Except we still know that it is relatively easy to start anew.  For today as we face the consequences of a nation of poor readers, we (and the child development experts) have finally realized that learning to read should never begin with first-grade. We also know that the very best readers have always been guided, supported and assisted when they needed it and not when a standardized curriculum guide said so.

Basically, It’s All Up to You....
 
As a parent, teacher, reading specialist and consultant to what at this point amounts to literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of students, parents and volunteer tutors, I am always amazed at how much can be accomplished even in a short period of time when somebody cares. And when it comes to reading, the sooner the better.
 
Today myriads of studies and researchers remind us of what parents of early readers have always practiced – always known. Early readers are not born. They are lovingly nurtured and guided right from the moment of birth. Early readers are a product of senior partners who understand that it is just as important to nurture their child intellectually as it is to change their diapers, teach them to kick a ball, or feed them those icky green beans. It is the senior partner that makes all the difference— it has little to do with the family genes. Early and successful readers can sprout anywhere and everywhere – basically it is all up to you.